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World Music and Jazz CD Review: Best Possible Musical World

 


By Mike Zwerin

PARIS, 17 January 2003 - In the best of all possible worlds, in 2003 the following world music would be popular everywhere.

Bikutsi Pop; The Songs of So' Forest (Naxos World):
The young Cameroonian singer-songwriter So' Forest is renewing the 60-year evolution of Bikutsi music. He adds other African and Brazilian elements, and handclaps and pounding feet are replaced by samplers and drum kits. The music began by accompanying the "So" ritual that marked a boy's passage into manhood. Migrants brought it out of the forest and into the bars of Youande. Sometimes raunchy lyrics were hidden from the church and the politicians through obscure slang. The addition of electric guitars and a back-beat widened its appeal. So' Forest sings about love, life, death and taxes in his native Swahili and in French and English. "Shambada" is about recovering from the legacy of Colonialism; "Wake Ya" is the story of a man who sacrificed his life to help his brothers.

Bikutsi Pop


East2West, "Global Departures From Istanbul" (Doublemoon):
The Turkish record company's slogan is: "Jazz - The Ethnic music of this planet." On their best-of selection, Turkish musicians based in Istanbul, Montreal, New York, Paris, Zurich, Berlin and Los Angeles make melting-pot music. All sorts of fusions, every which way. The Burhan Ocal/ Jamalaadeen Tacuma/Natacha Atlas "Groove Alla Turca" for one, and the bands Istanbul Blues Kompanyasi and Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Saul Williams (the poet/performer in the movie "Slam") recites on Ilhan Ersahin's "Jungle." A young Norah Jones sings "Angels" with Wax Poetic and famed bottle-blower Arto Tuncboyaciyan.

East2West


Jacky Terrasson, "Smile" (Blue Note):
The pianist Jacky Terrasson was born of an African American mother and a French father in Berlin in 1965. He grew up in France, attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and won (in 1993) the prestigious Thelonious Monk competition. Rising through the ranks, he played with Ray Brown and Art Tailor's Wailers and accompanied the singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Betty Carter and Cassandra Wilson. The trios he led became known for their dynamics, swing and interplay. On "Smile," he takes a gigantic leap forward. The title song was written by Charlie Chaplin, and there are new takes on "Mo Better Blues." "Isn't She Lovely?," "Le Jardin d'hiver" and "Sous le Ciel de Paris." One of the ten best albums of the year.

Jacky Terrasson


Coldplay, "A Rush Of Blood To The Head" (EMI/Parlophone):
Jimi Hendrix played a right-handed electric guitar upside down because he was left-handed and he couldn't find a left-handed guitar. After Hendrix's death, the Fender people began to manufacture left-handed Stratocasters that looked like they were upside-down for post-modern right-handed guitarists. This recalls the young British rock band Coldplay's stance to the Beatles. Not upside down, though that too. If not upside-down, then inside-out. They are better musicians than the Beatles, and the technology has advanced. (They also take a lot from Radiohead, and they've been called the "successors to U2.") A George Harrison raga lick is brought to mind by a crying synthesizer. A fast-moving light-footed bass line takes its hat off to Paul McCartney. A reference to "ah, look at all the lonely people" segues into hints of "we can work it out." Those familiar stroked triads on a piano lead to a colder, less innocent place than John Lennon's "Imagine." Lyrics such as "I was scared, tired, and under-prepared" and "God put a smile upon your face" are sung with consonant world-weary falsetto while guitars gently weep. What goes around comes around.

Coldplay


Jimi Hendrix, "The Rainbow Bridge Concert." (Purple Haze):
If you only have room in your life for one more Jimi Hendrix album, the 2-CD recording of spectacular sets in the afternoon and evening of July 30, 1970, in Maui, Hawaii, is it.


Boban Markovic Orkestar -"Live In Belgrade" (Pirhana):
This funky collection of spirited Balkan brass-band virtuosos was introduced to the West by Emir Kusturica's films Underground and Arizona Dream. Their style is a cross between a Prussian marching band, a New Orleans funeral parade, Charles Ives and a klezmer wedding. Such songs as "Zajdi Zajdi," "Ring, Ring" and "Hava Naguila" add up to street music for streets you'd like to be on.



Mike Zwerin has been jazz and rock critic for the International Herald Tribune for the last twenty years. He was also the European correspondent for The Village Voice. Zwerin is currently writing a book entitled "Parisian Jazz Affair" for Yale University Press and he is the jazz editor of Culturekiosque.com.

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