This week on Rhythm Planet, I’m going to showcase just a few of the artists that I am featuring in my Global Voices Salons, both this month and next. I used to teach these through UCLA Extension, but it’s a lot more fun doing them in my own home, where we get to enjoy the music on my high-end audio system, along with food and wine.
We begin with the great Claudio Villa, who came to the world’s attention (outside of Italy that is, where he was hugely popular) when his song, “Mexico,” was featured on the soundtrack for the feel-good film, Big Night, a film about Italians’ love of food, starring Stanley Tucci and several members of his family in real life.
Next, the inimitably cool Serge Gainsbourg delivers his “New York USA.” Quite before anyone else was doing so, he set his lyrics to African rhythms, naming off New York City landmarks: the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the RCA Building and more.
Cuba’s a cappella Vocal Sampling is next. Using only their voices, this conjunto does a fantastic job at rendering Cuban salsa, son, and rumba. Think Bobby McFerrin x Cuba x 7, and you get the picture.
The late Brazilian singer, Emílio Santiago, is next with a classic melody penned by the late composer/singer, Gonzaguinha, called “E Vamos a Luta,” which translates to mean, “And We Will Fight.” Yet with its great production and colorful arrangement, it’s a song that doesn’t sound at all truculent to me.
Then we change gears and listen to some powerful, beautiful devotional songs, one of the series themes from my Global Voices Salons. We start with the late Norwegian soprano, Anne-Lise Berntsen, and her gorgeous rendition of an 18th century Norwegian religious folk song. Then, the late, great sufi singer, Nusrat Fateh Khan, comes next, with a song from one of his brilliant crossover albums, Night Song, produced by Michael Brook. Peter Gabriel brought this Qawwali (Pakistani sufi gospel music) singer to the the world’s attention back in the early 1980s.
Dhafer Youssef is a Tunisian singer, composer and oud player, who originally intended to become an imam, but became a singer instead after hearing the plangent sound of fellow Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem. I find Youssef’s powerful voice backed by a small string section to be especially moving.
The late Dimi Mint Abba and her husband and tidinit (lute) player, Khalifa Ould Eide, are two devotional singers from the West African nation of Mauritania. Listen closely to their Islamic sufi song, “Yar Allahoo,” and you’ll hear blues elements that will remind you of American bluesmaster, Robert Johnson and his “Preaching Blues.”
This is just a sampling from my two Global Voices Salons, that I teach in my home. This month’s focus series is already underway, but if you’re interested in finding out more about the upcoming June focus salons, please click here or email me directly. We still have a few spots available for you!
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 05/08/15
- Claudio Villa / “Mexico” / Pioggia di Successi / Allegro Corporation
- Serge Gainsbourg / “New York USA” / Gainsbourg Percussions / Philips
- Vocal Sampling / “Una Forma Mas” / Una Forma Mas/ Sire
- Emílio Santiago / “E Vamos a Luta” / Maxximum / Sony/BMG Brazil
- Anne-Lise Berntsen & Nils Henrik Asheim / “Jeg See Dig, Søde Lam, At Staae” / Engleskyts (Arrows of Angels) / Kirkelig Kulturverksted
- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / “My Heart, My Life” / Night Song / Real World
- Dhafer Youssef / “Cantus Lamentus” / Divine Shadows / Jazzland Recordings
- Dimi Mint Abba & Khalifa Ould Eide / “Yar Allahoo” / Moorish Music from Mauritania / World Circuit
- Johnny Hartman / “Down in the Depths” / Unforgettable / Impulse
- Lorez Alexandria / “Show Me” / Alexandria the Great / Impulse