Music from Off The Beaten Path

A few days ago I looked at my CD collection and was amazed at how much world music I had amassed. I have CDs from Mongolia, Peru, Africa, a few Arabic artists, Estonia, Bali, India, Latin and LOTS of Brazillian music. Through the years and while traveling, I have scoured racks upon racks of CD stores from the US to Rio to Europe, Japan and everywhere else I have been, and picked up CDs along the way. Most of them I picked from out-of-the-blue, artist and sound unknown. And the biggest surprise of all is I haven’t gotten a real dud yet. I’ve picked many GREAT ones. Here’s a list of artists and CD that thrilled me within the range of pleasant surprise to rave reviews. Warning: The albums below were not specifically made for mainstream Western (American) music listeners.

1) Joyce—This Brazillian singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and icon is a must-listen and maybe even watch! I picked up one CD in Rio, and soon after had collected 14 other CDs and downloaded countless songs from the net. I just love the way she sings. Her voice is a real instrument and she plays with it sometimes like a horn, or like a bird warbling a song. Her guitar playing is superb. She sings Brazillian jazz ballads, sambas, bossa and other stuff. She is definitely on my list of artists I would like to watch even if it means flying to another country just to do so. (I almost did but the Blue Note Club in Tokyo could not guarantee me a ticket).

2) Moussa Kanoute—Dance of the Kora—Music from the Griots of West Africa. Galing! In this collection, the artist worked with some Westerners and so there is a fusion of styles and substances. Soothing, relaxing but not boring.

3) Trio Esperanca—I first heard about them from a student of mine who loved the Jobim song Waters of March and had 40 versions of it. He gave me a copy of his best 4. I immediately downloaded what I could get of Trio Esperanca afrter hearing them. Brazillian, female voices in accapela (mostly). I love them.

4) Caetano Velosos—Livro—This guy is really something. He’s a real hero of modern Brazillian music. He was put in jail in the late 70’s during the dark days of their military dictatorship. Since his early days, Caetano has been breaking new ground with almost every album. He describes the driving force of his creativity and that of the Tropicalismo movement (similar to our OPM in the 70s) as a combination of “rock and roll, rebellion and poor taste”! But background aside, this album “rocks” or rather. ..er..”sambas”. He does everything here including some rap!

5) Hrun Hrun Huur—50 Horses in My Herd—You’ll need a lot of patience and objectivity. It helps to remind yourself that music outside of the Western pop world takes more than 30 seconds to gain momentum. This one takes way more than that. But the big story with the Tuva throat singers is their uncanny ability to split their vocal chords into two or even three voices. Eerie, yes, but definitely exciting and ground breaking. These guys tour the world and get standing ovations everywhere.

Here’s a partial list which may seem boring to a lot of readers of my blog. Really, I am afraid I am getting to be a real snob. I don’t think I’ve bought an album with English lyrics in the past three years. The whole pop scene (US and UK) just doesn’t do it for me. Musically, that part of the world (except for a few artists like Steely Dan and some jazz) does not interest me right now. Too many artists doing music based on sales reports. I’m partial to how Joyce sees this century when she sees that the next big thing will be Brazillian music!

If you have some World Music albums you wannna tell me about, please write.