More on Big Music from Small Places: Maya Kamaty at AME from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

My previous post on Cape Verdean Singer Neuza, resulted in a trip to the AME, The Atlantic Music Expo in Cape Verde. As impressive as the local talent was, there were plenty of great acts drawing from the environs. I’m working on a longer mini-doc on the event (stay tuned!) but want to present one of my favorites right away, a singer songwriter from the island of Réunion.
Apologies up front that you are going to hear camcorder sound on this, but I think you will be able to get the basic feeling of being there and the excitement that this act generates.
Maya Kamaty is the daughter of Gilbert Pounia, front man for the band Ziskakan, one of the most popular groups on the island. They create music that is a heterogeneous blend of European, African and Indian elements (representing the population of the island) with a tasty dose of modern pop elements. So it is no wonder that Ms. Kamaty’s music contains all of these elements as well. “Ziskakan” is, by the way, celebrating their 35 years in music together, no mean feat for a band.
Although her songwriting is quite strong, I am presenting her performing a song her father wrote, “Vavang.” The two actually collaborate on occasion, but I can assure you Ms. Kamaty is a fine songwriter in her own right, and I’ll present one of her originals at a later date. In case you are wondering, she is playing a “kayamb” – a flat, square rattle made from sugar cane tubes and seeds, and a common instrument in both Maloya and Sega music, the two main genres of the island.

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Habib Koite, one of Mali’s most beloved singer/guitarists was in town last month to promote his new CD “Soô” on Contre Jour Records. He packed NYC’s City Winery with a polyglot audience, which included a hefty West African compliment.

Koité is a seasoned performer, and everyone on stage was relaxed and having fun. The most striking aspect of the show was the use of an unusual hybrid instrument, having a 6-string guitar neck with a banjo head and resonator. While played in the Malian guitar style, it projected the singular tone of a banjo. (Not all that odd, considering the banjo is African in origin.) This is also one of the strong sonic additions to “Soô ” which was recorded in Koite’s home studio, and which I highly recommend.

Habib Koite: A West African Fête at the City Winery from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

I had brought along my intern Molly Marcotte for second camera, and I think I had almost as much fun seeing her reactions to this show as I had to the show itself. As the show progressed more and more people were throwing money at the musicians and coming up on stage to dance with the maestro. While this is typical, down home behavior for an African audience I think it entranced Molly, particularly the style and skill of the dancing. By the time the show ended, Koité was standing in a puddle of greenbacks and the stage was a party in which everyone had a chance to show off their moves. And some of those moves were very impressive!

The song I am presenting is called “Diarabi Niani” a song about the hazards of love, and it occurred fairly early on in the set. But you can definitely see the party is beginning!

For an informed review of the CD, background on the artist, sound samples and more, visit the ever excellent site Rootsworld, at http://www.rootsworld.com/0603123/reviews/koite-14.shtml

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Song From Another Green Isle: Neuza at SOB’s from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

If we know anything of Cape Verdean music, it is largely due to the efforts of one man, Jose DaSilva, founder of the Lusafrica label, and producer of the late great Cesaria Evora.

Since that diva’s death, there have been many singers touted as having “inherited the mantle of Cesaria Evora.” What attracted me to the PR announcing Neuza’s set at was that this phrase was nowhere in sight, and instead stressed her roots in the island of Fogo, and her mastery of its specific musical repertoire. When I sat down with Mr. DaSilva, he made it quite clear that his interest, beyond her being an excellent singer, was this repertoire.

I expected a somewhat bare bones acoustic presentation from this, but as soon as I walked into sound check, I heard a fully electrified band warming up. The signature cavaquino (Portuguese ukulele) was there, but so was a synthesizer and a full kit. So the house filled up, the band took their places and Neuza started to sing.

First up: she’s a natural. A wonderful singer. She may have sung the first song, “Cuidado Na Bu Bida” (presented here) in a gently sweet voice, but I can assure you, she was just warming up and further down the road, she employed a steely high chest tone. And this song is a coladeira, a typical Cape Verdean dance probably descended from morna, the most well known song form from the islands, and not one of the songs specific to Fogo. But if, as I suspect you are not an expert on Cape Verdean music, dear reader, just give a listen to this lilting and lovely song which philosophizes about how to deal with the vicissitudes of life. And maybe dance a bit.

The house was packed with Cape Verdeans, who knew almost every song and soon dance partners were found, and all were stepping and subtly swaying to an island rhythm. It was an early set beginning at 7:30, and SOB’s usually gets its groove on around midnight, but it was obvious that this audience would have been there for the whole night, if Neuza had continued to sing.

For more about Neuza, visit: lusafrica.com/4_1.cfm?p=412-neuza

For more about Lusafrica, visit: lusafrica.com/1.cfm?p=51-lusafrica-world-music-label-cap-verde-africa-latine-america-caraibes

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.