Posts Tagged ‘World Music’


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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Emel Unplugged from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi’s set took an unexpected turn at GlobalFEST. Webster Hall’s Studio room was packed. Described in the program as “Electro-inspired voice of Tunisia’s Arab Spring” she was accompanied by synths and drums and as such she was delivering a solid show, and keeping the audience of presenters and other music biz types swaying and clapping. I was having a tough time shooting in the crowded room, and after the 5th person bumped into me and ruined the shot, I got ticked off enough to rudely elbow my way into the front of the room. And that’s when it happened. The PA imploded. And that’s how I caught Emel’s most engaging song of the set; one in which her warmth and humor really shone. My thanks to Michael Jones for taking my camcorder sound and making it listenable.

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Small Islands, Big Music: Report from the AME at Cabo Verde from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

For 20 years, the World Music Expo (WOMEX) has been the premiere European destination for targeted world music marketing. But realizing that the concept needs to go truly global WOMEX has been teaming up with other organizations world wide, and collaborating on similar events. The Atlantic Music Expo (AME) in Cabo Verde is now up and running and planning its 3rd year. I have been curious about how a WOMEX- style event might feel outside of Europe and in an island setting, and even more curious about Cabo Verde. When the opportunity to cover the AME presented itself I didn’t think twice.
Cabo Verde (you may know it as Cape Verde) is an excellent location for the event, as its music is acknowledged as a primary export. Its Minister of Culture, Mario Lucio Sousa is also a musician, and recognizes the importance of developing the economic side of the arts of his homeland. I suspect he was a major driver in getting this impressive event organized.
The uninhabited island cluster of Cabo Verde was first discovered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and used as a base for the slave trade. As a result the people of this windswept archipelago are now a combination of races that reflect many cultures and take pride in that mix. In the song form called morna, one feels the dark imprint of Portuguese saudade, while the percussion driven dance batuque comes from a sensuous African root. Add in the rhythms of ocean waves for an island lilt, and you can imagine the attractions of the music.
Although the AME 2014 promoted Cabo Verdean artists and labels, it was also a showcase for artists from other areas. This year Guinea Bissau (linked politically and historically) and even Reunion Island were represented, along with a sprinkling of acts from Europe and Brazil.
It was difficult to capture even a fraction of music that was presented, but I have tried to give a decent sampling, and a feel for what it was like to be there. I also hope that my video captured some of the beauty of the place and the people. And I have to mention that along with its music, Cabo Verdean coffee is excellent, grown right in the volcanic soil on the island of Fogo, (my partner demolished the package I brought back within days; I should have brought back more!) as are the grapes that go into its wine, Chã, which is export quality, complex –and potent! The cuisine is also lovely (the seafood is awesome) always fresh, and I did not come across anything pre-prepared. This sometimes makes for a bit of a wait at restaurants – but what‘s the hurry?
TIP: I would recommend visiting Cabo Verde during the AME as the weather is perfect then, all the night time showcases are free to the public, and the Kreol Jazz Festival follows right after the AME, and that is a wonderfully programmed event as well.

For more information about the AME visit:
for other performances by some of the artists in this article, visit:

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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.