By Mike Zwerin
17 January 2003 - In the best of all possible worlds, in 2003 the
following world music would be popular everywhere.
Pop; The Songs of So' Forest (Naxos World):
Cameroonian singer-songwriter So' Forest is renewing the 60-year
evolution of Bikutsi music. He adds other African and Brazilian
elements, and handclaps and pounding feet are replaced by samplers and
drum kits. The music began by accompanying the "So" ritual
that marked a boy's passage into manhood. Migrants brought it out of
the forest and into the bars of Youande. Sometimes raunchy lyrics were
hidden from the church and the politicians through obscure slang. The
addition of electric guitars and a back-beat widened its appeal. So'
Forest sings about love, life, death and taxes in his native Swahili
and in French and English. "Shambada" is about recovering
from the legacy of Colonialism; "Wake Ya" is the story of a
man who sacrificed his life to help his brothers.
"Global Departures From Istanbul" (Doublemoon):
Turkish record company's slogan is: "Jazz - The Ethnic music of
this planet." On their best-of selection, Turkish musicians based
in Istanbul, Montreal, New York, Paris, Zurich, Berlin and Los Angeles
make melting-pot music. All sorts of fusions, every which way. The
Burhan Ocal/ Jamalaadeen Tacuma/Natacha Atlas "Groove Alla Turca"
for one, and the bands Istanbul Blues Kompanyasi and Brooklyn Funk
Essentials. Saul Williams (the poet/performer in the movie "Slam")
recites on Ilhan Ersahin's "Jungle." A young Norah Jones
sings "Angels" with Wax Poetic and famed bottle-blower Arto
Jacky Terrasson, "Smile" (Blue Note):
pianist Jacky Terrasson was born of an African American mother and a
French father in Berlin in 1965. He grew up in France, attended the
Berklee College of Music in Boston and won (in 1993) the prestigious
Thelonious Monk competition. Rising through the ranks, he played with
Ray Brown and Art Tailor's Wailers and accompanied the singers Dee Dee
Bridgewater, Betty Carter and Cassandra Wilson. The trios he led
became known for their dynamics, swing and interplay. On "Smile,"
he takes a gigantic leap forward. The title song was written by
Charlie Chaplin, and there are new takes on "Mo Better Blues."
"Isn't She Lovely?," "Le Jardin d'hiver" and "Sous
le Ciel de Paris." One of the ten best albums of the year.
"A Rush Of Blood To The Head" (EMI/Parlophone):
Hendrix played a right-handed electric guitar upside down because he
was left-handed and he couldn't find a left-handed guitar. After
Hendrix's death, the Fender people began to manufacture left-handed
Stratocasters that looked like they were upside-down for post-modern
right-handed guitarists. This recalls the young British rock band
Coldplay's stance to the Beatles. Not upside down, though that too. If
not upside-down, then inside-out. They are better musicians than the
Beatles, and the technology has advanced. (They also take a lot from
Radiohead, and they've been called the "successors to U2.")
A George Harrison raga lick is brought to mind by a crying
synthesizer. A fast-moving light-footed bass line takes its hat off to
Paul McCartney. A reference to "ah, look at all the lonely people"
segues into hints of "we can work it out." Those familiar
stroked triads on a piano lead to a colder, less innocent place than
John Lennon's "Imagine." Lyrics such as "I was scared,
tired, and under-prepared" and "God put a smile upon your
face" are sung with consonant world-weary falsetto while guitars
gently weep. What goes around comes around.
Hendrix, "The Rainbow Bridge Concert." (Purple Haze):
you only have room in your life for one more Jimi Hendrix album, the
2-CD recording of spectacular sets in the afternoon and evening of
July 30, 1970, in Maui, Hawaii, is it.
Markovic Orkestar -"Live In Belgrade" (Pirhana):
This funky collection of spirited Balkan brass-band virtuosos was
introduced to the West by Emir Kusturica's films Underground
and Arizona Dream. Their style is a cross between a Prussian
marching band, a New Orleans funeral parade, Charles Ives and a
klezmer wedding. Such songs as "Zajdi Zajdi," "Ring,
Ring" and "Hava Naguila" add up to street music for
streets you'd like to be on.
Zwerin has been jazz and rock critic for the International Herald
Tribune for the last twenty years. He was also the European
correspondent for The Village Voice. Zwerin is currently writing a
book entitled "Parisian Jazz Affair" for Yale University
Press and he is the jazz editor of Culturekiosque.com.