Rhythm Planet Playlist: World Grooves

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Multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Dexter Story Photo by Farah Sosa

This week’s playlist covers an array of music past and present from different countries. I have enjoyed the earlier songs over the years and don’t want them forgotten. We start with the Tibetan singer Yunchen Lhamo who recorded several gems for the Real World label. I have always loved her song “Sky” from the album Coming Home. Her “One Drop of Kindness” benefit concert comes to Los Angeles on Saturday, August 17. We follow with “Emony,” a ballad from Tshala Muana, one of Congo’s great singers whose music I have long loved.

Dexter Story is a local musical polymath/musician/producer, and his new album Bahir (the Arabic, Hebrew, and Amharic word for “Sea”) was inspired by Story’s lengthy stay in Ethiopia.. It celebrates the musical traditions of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritria, and Sudan, and has been called “A love letter to East African music” (Josh Terry, Noisey). You can pick it up on vinyl, too, which is always a plus. We hear the track “Bila” featuring the Ethiopian musician Kibrom Birhane. We then move on to Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw, better known as Gigi. We feature “Salam” from her Palm Pictures album Gold and Wax. After that, a new Ropeadope CD by Tosin Aribisala, a Nigerian afrobeat/jazz singer and drummer whose music celebrates the musical legacies of Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti, Salif Keita, and Sting.

I’m excited about a new audiophile version of John Lee Hooker’s 1959 acoustic album, The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker. The Riverside monaural album has been reissued in a 180 gram custom pressing, courtesy of Craft Recordings, the audiophile wing of Concord Records.  It’s country blues, just voice and guitar, stripped down to the basics. We check out the track “Bundle Up and Go.” And because I love John Lee Hooker’s music, we hear another one from an early 1949 session reissued a few years ago on a double CD courtesy of Rhino Records. “Weeping Willow Boogie” finds him on an electric guitar.

The good folks at Shout Factory are just about to reissue a new Collector’s Edition Blue-ray DVD of Jimmy Cliff’s 1973 classic The Harder They Come, directed by Perry Henzel. The film spurred worldwide interest in Jamaican music and culture before reggae became big outside of Jamaica and the U.K. The 3-disc set features lots of bonus material like director Perry Henzel’s next film, No Place Like Home, a long-lost film documentary. The third bonus disc called The Legacy of Perry Henzell: A Story of Jamaican Cinema includes several interviews and shorts. Together the three DVDs present a vivid portrait of the 1960s and 1970’s Jamaican music scene. We listen to the Jimmy Cliff classic “The Harder They Come.”

Check out the original 1972 trailer:

The playlist also features Afro-Cuban and jazz music, including José Rizo’s Mongorama, featuring Hubert Laws and Dayren Santamaria, as well as the sweet voice of Dominican singer Santiago Ceron, who started his career as a lyric tenor in classical music. I wanted to share some vibes too, something from a later album by Bobby Hutcherson covering Coltrane classics, plus a new album by mallet virtuoso Steve Nelson with a great group (Danny Grissett, Peter Washington, and Lewis Nash). There’s also a new album by the superb acoustic bass player David Finck, who plays one of my favorite songs, “Old Devil Moon.”

When I heard “Mi Alegria” by Israeli guitarist Itamar Erez, I thought he was Brazilian at first, but I was wrong. Check out these videos featuring him—the first is solo guitar and make sure you watch this second video with the great Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek and orchestra. I can’t believe I had never heard of this guitarist!

I just received a Deutsche Grammophon CD called Gateways, which features the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra with conductor Long Yu. Asia’s oldest symphony, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 140thanniversary this year. We hear part 1 of composer Qigang Chen’s (b. 1951) suite for orchestra, “Wu Xing” (The Five Elements).

I have included a few of my world music favorites in the playlist, some of which I featured in my Trance Planet series of five albums. There’s “Anima” from Les Nouvelles PolyphoniesCorses, so beautifully produced by the late Hector Zazou (Vol. 1) and Syrian poet Abed Azrié’s “Pareilàl’eau” (Like Water) (Vol. 3). I love Tunisian Anouar Brahem’s oud albums, so we hear “C’est ailleurs” (It’s Elsewhere) from Le Pas du Chat Noir (The Black Cat’s Steps), a duet with French pianist François Couturier.

Two Argentine tangos conclude the playlist – the classic “Yira Yira” by Raul Garello and Piazzolla’s evocative “Oblivion,” nicely rendered by Los Angeles’s Les Deux Love Orchestra.

Here’s Bobby Hutcherson at the 1987 Mt. Fuji Festival, performing a great solo in the august company of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. 

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 8/13/19

  1. Yungchen Lamo / “Sky” / Coming Home / Real World Records
  2. Tshala Muana / “Emony” / Biduaya / Celluloid
  3. Dexter Story featuring Kibrom Birhane / “Bila” / Bahir / Soundway Records
  4. Gigi / “Salam” / Gold & Wax / Palm Pictures
  5. Tosin Aribisala / “Sunday Evening Mood” / Afrika Rising / Ropeadope
  6. John Lee Hooker / “Bundle Up and Go” / The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker / Specialty Records
  7. John Lee Hooker / “Weeping Willow Boogie” / King of the Boogie / Craft Recordings
  8. Jimmy Cliff / “The Harder They Come” / Ultimate Collection: Jimmy Cliff / Hip-O
  9. Bobby Hutcherson / “Wise One” / Wise One / Kind of Blue Records
  10. Steve Nelson / “Soul Leo” / Brothers Under the Sun / HighNote Records
  11. Mongorama / “Bacoso” / Mongorama / Saungu Recordings
  12. Santiago Ceron / “Lindo Yambu” / Exitos de Santiago Ceron, Vol. 1  / Mary Lou Records
  13. Shanghai Symphony Orchestra & Long Yu / “Chen: Wu Xing (The Five Elements) – 1. Shui (Water)” / Gateways / Deutsche Grammophon
  14. Anouar Brahem / “C’est ailleurs” / Le pas du chat noir / ECM Records
  15. Abed Azrié/ “Pareilàl’eau” / Lapis lazuli / Doumtak
  16. Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses / “Anima” / Trance Planet Vol. 1 / Triloka Records
  17. David Finck / “Old Devil Moon” / Old Devil Moon / Burton Avenue Music
  18. Itamar Erez / “Mi Alegria” / Mi Alegria / Isidore
  19. Raul Garello / “Yira Yira” / Serie De Oro / EMI Argentina
  20. Les Deux Love Orchestra / “Oblivion” / Ecstasy / Heart Times Coffee Cup Studios