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 courses 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 already hugely popular) when his song, “Mexico,” was featured in the soundtrack for the feel-good film, Big Night, a film about Italians’ love of food, starring Stanley Tucci and a number of his family members in real life.
Next, the inimitably cool Serge Gainsbourg delivers his“New York USA.” Quite before anyone else was doing so, he set these 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 follows with a classic melody penned by the late composer/singer, Gonzaguinha, called “E Vamos a Luta,” which translates to “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, the first 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, 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 the late 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.”
Finally, we’ll close this week’s Rhythm Planet show with two great jazz classics by Johnny Hartman and gospel singer, Lorez Alexandria.
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!