Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Listen now: Traditional World Music contenders for the 2010 Grammys

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

In December last year, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) announced the nominated CDs (Compact Discs) for the 53rd annual Grammy Awards (see also the official Grammy Website)--an event in the music world comparable to the Academy Awards (or Oscars) in the realm of the cinema, and scheduled for Sunday night, 13 February.

A number of the nominated recordings included performances in the general field of "world music", and two categories were specifically dedicated to that niche: #74 - Best Traditional World Music Album, and #75 - Best Contemporary World Music Album"--among a total of 109 categories of various genres (click here for a complete listing of "Fields" and their "Categories", and here for their full definitions of the individual fields and categories.

Recordings in other fields, such as Alternative, New Age, Latin, Folk, Reggae, and Polka, may in fact have a substantial world music (i.e., international and/or traditional) component, and further general categories (e.g., Record of the Year, Album of the Year, etc.) may occasionally include world music artists. As time permits, I'll be noting nominated world music albums in these areas in future VOAWorldMusic posts. Click here for a complete listing of all this year's (2010) Grammy nominees.

The nominees for #75: Traditional World Music Album (see the complete definition of this category at * at the end of this entry) include three from Africa, and one each from Asia and Latin America. (In the Contemporary category--see my next entry--two nominees are from Latin America, one is from Africa, one an American/African collaboration, and one from Asia.)

The Traditional nominees are:

(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 again on the company's Website (in parentheses). Finally, the artist(s)' own Website(s) and/or MySpace and/or Facebook pages is (are) listed, following the record company's name.) For the record (no pun intended), audio samples and/or videos of many of these artists are available on some of their Web pages, or those of their recording company, as well as on YouTube.

1. "Pure Sounds", by the Gyuto Monks of Tibet, on New Earth Records (company's Website). Artist's Website. In this recording, the Monks, practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, illustrate one variety of the haunting vocal tradition known variously as overtone singing, throat singing, or harmonic singing. A similar album by the Monks of the Sherab Ling Monastery, "Sacred Tibetan Chant", won a Grammy in this same category in 2003.

2. "I Speak Fula", by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba (the name of his band), on Sub Pop /Next Ambiance records--a new sister label to Sub Pop (company's Website). Artist's MySpace page and Facebook page. Kouyate, from Mali (as have been many Grammy nominees and winners--see #4 below) sings and plays a skin-covered chordophone (stringed instrument) called the ngoni. His album is also released on a 12-inch vinyl 33 1/3 rpm long playing (LP) disc, which as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, is for those purist audiophiles he feel that the vinyl analog sound is more natural and music.

3. "Grace" by the Soweto Gospel Choir, on Shanachie Entertainment (company's Website). Artist's Website. This South African ensemble of both men and women singers, with its rich harmonies--and, on this album, occasional instrumental (guitar, percussion) accompaniment--has won two previous Grammys in this category, for "Blessed" in 2006 and "African Spirit"in 2007. Their music is similar in style to that of the all-male Ladysmith Black Mambazo, also from South Africa, who won in the Best Traditional Folk Recording category in 1987 for "Shaka Zulu", and for "Raise Your Spirit Higher" in 2004 and for "Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu" in 2008,--both in the in the Traditional World Music category.

4."Ali and Toumani" by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, on World-Circuit - Nonesuch Records (World-Circuit Website and Nonesuch Website). Ali Farka Touré's Website and Toumani Diabaté's Website (in French). This recording is particularly notable in that it is the second of two between the Malian superstars Diabaté and Touré, who died in 2006; their earlier collaboration, "In the Heart of the Moon", received a Grammy Award in the same (Traditional) category in 2005, and Diabaté's album,"The Mandé Variations", received a Grammy, again in the Traditional category, in 2009. Touré himself received a Grammy in 1994 for the Best World Music Album (there was only one world music category at that time), "Talking Timbuktu", in a collaboration with protean guitarist Ry Cooder.

This year's performance is a lambent and compelling fusion of the voices of both artists, and of Touré's guitar and Diabaté's kora, a versatile harp-like instrument, popular throughout West Africa, with a large gourd as a resonating chamber and a long neck with frets. You can download a track, "Sabu Yerkoy", from this year's nominated CD, at the Nonesuch Website here.

5. "Tango Universal" by Vayo Raimondo on Big Dream Music Records (the Spanish company's Website). Artists' Website. In comparison to at least some the other artists nominated above, Raimondo, both a composer and singer originally from Uruguay, is relatively unknown in the U.S., but he has received two previous nominations in 2007 and 2010 for "Best Tango Album" in the Latin Grammy Awards, which honors Spanish and Portuguese language recordings, and held annually since 2000 in Los Angeles.

As often happens, African music dominates in this category, with three entries, and one entry each from Asia and Latin America.

*Full definition for Category 74, Traditional World Music Album:

"For vocal or instrumental traditional world music albums containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded material. This category is intended for recordings that may combine musical elements indigenous to a culture or country with additional elements of another culture. Non-Western classical music, International non-American and non-British traditional folk music are eligible in this category."

Only the boldface sentence above separates this category from the definition of the next, #75 Contemporary World Music Album, which specifies separately "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." See the next blog entry for the nominees in this category.

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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