African roots, Latin rhythms

West African bands and artists dominate the European Broadcast Union’s World Music Chart for June, with one of West Africa’s most loved dance bands, Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab, riding high at top spot, with their first studio album for a decade, Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng.

Baobab are a pioneering band, known for their scintillating fusion of African roots with Cuban dance styles (wonderful singing and guitar playing, set to swaying Latin rhythms). They disbanded for many years before reforming to great acclaim in 2001; this is their third studio album and features their original kora (21-stringed African harp). This one is a must for serious music fans.

Also riding high are Republique Amazone, a supergroup made up of African women singers, led by Benin’s Angelique Kidjo with a Congotronics-style mash-up. Ali Farka Toure’s son Vieux is No.8 with his effort Samba. Behind him is the fast-rising new studio album, Magoya, by Mali’s superstar Oumou Sangare (her groundbreaking cassette, Moussoulou, is now available on vinyl, courtesy of World Circuit) and is essential. Sangare has a new record label, No Format! from France, and has created a more danceable sound than on previous albums, but still with those traditional elements, driven by ngoni fiddle and great percussion. Also from Africa is the electric 1000 Can Die by Ghana’s King Ayisoba — well worth checking out.

African music fans should also check out the new guitar-driven release from desert music makers, Tamikrest, whose latest album Kidal (Glitterbeat) is at No.18 on the chart.

El Callegueso Y Su Managitator.

Europe is led by the veteran Sami singer and master of the free bass button accordion from Finland, Maria Kalaniemi, who is joined by Eero Grundström on Svalan, and Spain’s Lara Bello. The Middle East has just one representative, Al Jamilat, by Lebanese singer/songwriter Yasmine Hamdan.

World Beat will be off to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Malaysia, from July 14-16. The annual festival is held in the Cultural Village, just outside Kuching, the state capital. The set-up is similar to previous festivals, with two outdoor stages, the Jungle and Tree Stage, which are for the evening performances, while various workshops and demonstrations will be held in the various traditional Sarawak houses on the festival site. There is a bazaar and food festival and an exhibition on the sape (iconic Sarawak boat lute); also, introduced for this year’s anniversary, are various “fringe” events to be held in Kuching city.

This year’s line-up features a fascinating mix of international bands and local musicians, including Abavuki (South Africa), Radio Cos (Spain), Achanak (India/United Kingdom), Ba Cissoko (Ginuea), Bitori (Cape Verde), Calan (Wales), Cimarron (Colombia), Didier Laloy and Kathy Adam (Belgium), Dom Flemons (United States), Hanggai (China), Huw Williams (Wales), Kelele (South Africa), Okra Olayground (Finland) and Pareaso (South Korea).

Svalan.

Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band join the regional bands attending, the first professional Thai band to perform at the festival, including Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe (Taiwan), The Chipolatas (UK/Australia), Saing Waing Orchestra (Myanmar) and Tahiti E (Tahiti). Local bands include One Drum.org (Malaysia), Ilu Leto (Sarawak), Sarawak Cultural Village (Sarawak), 1511 O Maliao Maliao Dance Troupe (Malaysia) and Lan E Tuyang (Sarawak). Visit rwfm.net

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