Author Archive


Redi and Maria from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

I caught this act at the Fira Mediterranea de Manresa and this song really won me over. It’s an original, entitled “Del Cielo E Della Terra” (of Heaven and Earth) and it is one winsome song. It is on their album URA,(Finisterre FT62, 2015).

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Eliseo/Manresa from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

I first encountered the voice of Eliseo Parra through his work with the Basque band Alboka. Since then I have heard him often, and it is always a pleasure. As well as being a respected researcher of Iberian music, he is a marvelously generous performer. I was happy to see that he had been slotted in to the Fira Medeterranea de Manresa, but surprised that he was performing in one of the smaller venues. To my way of thinking he is a major act. However I have no complaints as I quite like El Cielu, and the intimacy of the setting allowed him to relate that much better to his audience. The song I am presenting is called “La Zarzamora,” from his most recent album, El Man Sur.

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Sam Lee sings "Moorlough Maggie" at GlobalFEST from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

I had heard great things about Sam Lee’s performance at WOMEX 2012. (I missed it for reasons to boring to go into.) So I was determined to catch his set at GlobalFEST. He went on right after the PA crashed during Emel Mathlouthi’s set (to see how she dealt with that, see my post at I think the sound man may have been attempting to reconstruct the settings from the earlier sound check, as Lee performed. As a result I felt a certain sonic confusion in the room that kept me from fully comprehending the arrangements. Or maybe it was the room itself that made it hard to hear every nuance. But Lee’s music is nuanced to an extreme, and so I kept shooting and hoping that if I could get the sound from the board, I’d be able to revisit what I was hearing. I was able to get that audio file, and so now I can present you with a marvelous rendition of “Moorlough Maggie” that takes a haunting and highly stylized Scottish folk song and turns it into a riveting piece of chamber music. Lee introduced it as an “end of day” song, one that is sung in appreciation of the stillness of nature. I would assume it is also meant to be sung in unison or unaccompanied, with no harmony singing to flesh it out. But Lee’s arrangement with cello, drums, violin, trumpet, and yoochin (Mongolian hammered dulcimer) milks every phrase of the song for textural, harmonic and melodic possibilities. Lee’s baritone voice is a wonderful folk instrument, true and flexible, and he savors the notes with real pleasure. Did he need the jew’s harp at the end? Perhaps his ethnically eclectic arrangement was hearkening to the Mongolian steppe, where the jew’s harp is widely used, and where nomads, like the Travelers he learned the song from, still herd sheep under silent skies.

For more about Sam:

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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.