Posts Tagged ‘WOMEX 2013’

Dec
30


Amira Sings Sevdah at WOMEX 2013 from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Sevdah, or Sevdalinka, is a folk song form with origins tracing back to Ottoman times, particularly in Bosnia and now common throughout the former Yugoslavia in the various Bosnian enclaves. These songs have been handed down, over the 5 centuries, and are still a part of the culture, and of late, new interpretations have arisen, placing these musical jewels into new settings. Although many of these melodies may have originally been sung a capella, it was also traditional for many years for the singer to simply be accompanied by a saz, or lute. To hear what this sounded like, check out the impeccable Emina Zecaj at: youtube.com/watch?v=2LJVyc7MEZQ

Amira is certainly one of the best known of the new generation of Sevdah artists. Raised in Bosnia-Herzegovina, she learned most of the songs in her repertoire from her mother. She also displays the kind of bel canto interpretation that characterizes the form. Sevdah is not meant to be shouted or bluesy. Microtones may have possibly been an element at one point, but over time, what has remained are the sinuous lines and vaguely unresolved ends of melodies. It is a sophisticated, perfumed medium conveying longing, regret, and emotions unrequited. If this reminds you of the Portuguese saudade, you are not at all far off! The two words are actually related.

Amira sings a straight-ahead Sevdah. It is her backup band that sets her presentation apart, playing a jazz informed backup that never overwhelms the passionate reading of the songs.

“Zemi Me Zemi” is a song from South Serbia, and as Amira writes: “Both flirtatious and threatening, this song is an illustration of how a great desire can, if spurned, easily turn into hatred. How dangerous can love be?

“Take me, marry me, why don’t you take me?
If you marry anyone, it’s me you should marry!
If you do not, then God will take you!”

To contact Amira: mirza.dedic@icloud.com
For more about Amira: amiramedunjanin.ba




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Dec
09


Canadian Heat: The April Verch band at WOMEX 2013 from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

If I didn’t tell you up front that April Verch and her band are playing from the musical heritage of the Ottawa Valley, you might assume that she is from the American South, or Appalachia, or even New England. The music seems so familiar; part bluegrass, part old timey, part contradance. And as she herself said of her dancing during her concert: “..this music originated in the lumber camps. And a lot of people when they see this, they recognize a lot of different dance styles; Irish hardshoe, French Canadian, even clogging or flatfooting… tap dancing in more recent years….if you see any of these dances you’re probably right, there’s bits and pieces of everything.” What this goes to show is that Canada, as much as the United States is a country built from immigrants, and each ethnicity has brought something to the musical mix. And we hear and see those influences and recognize them right away.

Verch is a wonderful fiddler. She has a rich tone, and a great bowing arm, and a smile that never quits when she plays. She is obviously enjoying herself tremendously. And when she started dancing, she lifted the highly critical WOMEX audience right out of their seats. One of the photographers there confided to me that he was exhausted, just from watching her….but in a good way. As for her dancing, it is polished, exciting, and delivered with that same grin. No wonder her management was mobbed afterwards.

Please make sure to watch this video all the way through, as otherwise you may miss Ms. Verch playing AND dancing simultaneously. She credits the late great John Hartford with inspiring her, and that is easy to see. Her backup band consists of Cody Walters on banjo and bass, and Hayes Griffin on guitar—and they all sing.

To contact April: aprilverch.com




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Nov
29


Two Harps That Beat As One: Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Almost 25 years ago, I was walking down West 4th street in Manhattan, and heard a harp-like sound that seemed extraordinarily out of place in the urban noise surrounding me. I tried to locate the source, and eventually realized it was emanating from three tall, slender men in robes who were sauntering up the block ahead of me. I sped up my pace and as I got abreast of them, saw that one of them was playing what I learned later was a kora, as he strolled. And it seemed as if something magical was happening; the instrument changed the environment surrounding the three, as people were calmed and drawn to the sound. All around them, these three stately men had everyone in thrall with the pure, rippling notes of the kora. The instrument itself was sort of a cross between a harp and a some kind of lute, and the most conspicuous part, the resonator, was half of a large gourd. I walked a block out of my way before tearing myself away from the sound to go home.
Since then, there have been quite a few musical collaborations involving the kora in combination with other western instruments. (The wonderful “Chamber Music” with Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal is one of the most successful.) But as far as I know, the collaboration between Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch is the first one to pair the kora with another harp. And upon hearing this duet, one actually wonders what took so long.
The two musicians in this duo are well matched, Keita has a history of innovating and experimenting with his instrument –he plays a western-machined double necked kora– but has been careful to always maintain some distinctive root of his beloved West African music. Catrin Finch (known in her home country of Wales as the Queen of Harps) is also known for her forays into experimental music, as well as her mastery of the standard classical and folk repertoire. For this performance, Keita brought both a single and a double necked kora, while Finch played a striking Camac “Big Blue 47″ concert harp with pickups on each of the 47 strings.
There was quite a buzz building up to their performance at WOMEX, which this year was in Cardiff. 
It was unfortunate that it took place in a rather small concert room instead of the big auditorium, as it filled up to capacity far too quickly and many delegates could not get in to see the show.The room was jammed with a mostly Welsh audience, and anticipation crackled in the air. I was pretty much crushed up agains the apron of the stage, almost in the middle..not the best angle for shooting!
When Finch and Keita play together, there is a complete immersion one with the other. Keita plays the rhythmic patterns and Finch’s precise fingers play a counterpoint or a harmony figure and it all just feels right. Keita grins when Finch plays a stately figure enhancing his motif, and Finch nods back, giving Keita the room to cascade away on the kora. And that’s quite a blazing solo he takes at the end, I might add. Through it all, there is a close communication that is palpable. Purists from one tradition or another may take issue with this blend -and I did hear one opinion voiced that it sounded too Welsh and not sufficiently Senegalese, but I think it is just that the two players have made allowances for each other’s music, and this give and take creates a true hybrid. At any rate, I was in string heaven, awash in pleasure from lovely music, exquisitely played.
For more information about these artists visit astarmusic.co.uk/




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Michal
Welcome!

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.

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