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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Vakoka

By Marty Lipp
Published January 20, 2006

Introducing: The Malagasy All Stars
World Music Network Intro102CD

SHIYANU NGCOBO
Introducing: Zulu Guitars Dance: Maskanda From South Africa
World Music Network

SUKKE
Introducing: New Directions In Jewish Roots Music
World Music Network

While one could argue that most world music labels are “introducing” artists to American audiences, this laudable series from World Music Network globetrots to pick out worthwhile projects that otherwise would not be playing at a theater near you. The first three of the series touch down in Madagascar, South Africa and Eastern EuropeVakoka arrives with a back story worth noting: it represents a project headed by Hanitra of the internationally known group Tarika and a foreign-born producer who fell in love with Madagascar’s various types of music. The group brought together a dream team of composers and musicians and created songs that represented different facets of fanahy Gasy or Malagasy soul. The Vakoka project is truly singular in ethnomusicological terms, but it also is a sweet, swinging listen too. Acoustic-based, the tunes move with a gentle funk and float with rootsy voices. Shiyani Ngcobo is a veteran South African guitarist who plays in the maskanda dance style, which is little known outside his homeland. Ngcobo turns out to be one-man dream team himself, mixing various regional versions of maskanda and also lyrically mixing Zulu proverbs with contemporary musical commentary. Those who loved the “Heartbeat of Soweto” collection would similarly go for Ngcobo’s acoustic guitar picking. The third disc is from the group Sukke, which is composed of three prominent klezmer musicians from Europe whose principle instruments are accordion, clarinet and bass. While the group plays straightforward klezmer music, without mixing it with other genres, the members write many of their tunes, forwarding the tradition in that way. These three discs, while disparate, show this new series is off to a good start, bringing traditionally rooted music to wider audiences.