Music

For Summer Dancing in the Streets

Six spectacular world beat albums that will have you dancing through those sweet summer nights.

As my city of Brooklyn slowly warms up—given the rains we’ve had the last two months it feels, as one friend put it, like we’ve “entered the tropics” -- a number of solid releases have been crossing my desk, representing a handful of the best international artists going. During some seasons, picking out six winners is a chore and challenge; this time around, it was tough deciding what not to include. Here are a manageable six albums destined to make the soundtrack of your summer.

Artist: CéU

Album: Vagarosa

Label: Six Degrees

US Release Date: 2009-07-07

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/v/vagarosa-cover.jpgThe first I have been anticipating since her self-titled debut dropped on Six Degrees Records in 2007. The Brazilian singer CéU received a nice boost when Starbucks cut a deal and put her voice inside every store across the country. Being the first international artist in the Hear Music label distribution chain, the decision could not have been better: CéU’s reggae-infused take on samba, bossa nova, and jazz, along with other assorted South American instrumentation, has quickly and deservedly spread her name.

While taking on Jorge Ben in a tribute to her recently born daughter with “Rosa Menina Rosa”, and turning down the bass and up the cavaquinho on “Vira Lata”, the best songs occur last on Vagarosa. “Sonambulo”, which was recently released on the Cangote EP, features a quick-witted guitar line surrounded by a solid hip-hop beat and winsome melodica. Even more surprising is the Os Mutantes-era “Espaconave”, CéU taking on the psychedelic ‘60s, complete with bird sounds and Nyabhingi-esque congas. The rollicking beat opens into a multi-tiered vocal chant, hypnotic keyboard line, and fuzzy electric guitars. A brilliant closing for an album that deserves the same adjective.

Artist: Vieux Farka Touré

Album: Fondo

Label: Six Degrees

US Release Date: 2009-05-12

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/f/fondo-cover.jpgBefore leaving Six Degrees, we need to journey with them, as well as producer Yossi Fine, to Mali, where guitarist/vocalist Vieux Farka Touré recently recorded his sophomore outing, Fondo. On these 11 songs he may still be paying a musical tribute to his father, Ali Farka, but he has also left the past behind. Unlike his debut, where he leaned on his father (the last thing he recorded before his death), and longtime family friend Toumani Diabate, Touré owns this sound. And what an awakening it is.

Credit Fine for allowing the young man’s voice and guitar playing, already more than able, to shine. He keeps the bass, his instrument of choice, tasteful yet in the background, pulling the occasional reggae trick from his deep bag, and helps Touré capture the integrity and depth of African blues. While upbeat songs like “Sarama” and “Chérie Lé” chug along, the real winners occur when he steps up solo: the exquisite, lonesome strains of “Souba Souba”, as well as “Slow Jam” and “Paradise”.

Artist: Nickodemus

Album: Sun People

Label: Eighteenth Street

US Release Date: 2009-06-16

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/s/sunpeople-cover.jpgYou can hear Africa in the title track of Nickodemus’s Sun People, by way of the uplifting vocals of Ismael Kouyate (who returns for the album’s closer, “N’Dini”). Choosing to represent “sun people” the world over, Nicko journeys to Romania, India, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Brooklyn. His city of choice also belongs to Brian J, lead singer of the Pimps of Joytime, who contributes to the anthemic “The Love Feeling”, a 120-bpm cruiser destined to keep dance floors rocking year round.

Carrying microphones with him on tours, he was able to capture a few members of the inimitable Taraf De Haidouks, who turn up on the ingeniously titled “Brookarest”. More Balkan beats arise when the New York Gypsy All-Stars throw down on “2 Sips and Magic”, a proverbial headnod to the love of drink and performance -- magic indeed. The Real Live Show returns from their outing on Nicko’s Endangered Species, on “Sun Children”, a cheerful homage to our brightest star. Richard Shepherd, formerly of Radio Mundial, flips the script by paying tribute to the rain on the Latin boogie “La Lluvia”. Brazil’s Liliana Araujo, India’s Falu, and Manchester-based toaster Kwasi Asante round out an impressive list of characters.

Artist: Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Album: Rare Elements

Label: 5 Points

US Release Date: 2009-06-09

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/r/rareelements-cover.jpgNickodemus appears on the latest effort by the quizzical 5 Points Records, which seems to put out one record every two years. Fortunately this is a good one: ten remixes of Turkish flautist Omar Faruk Tekbilek. Dubbed Rare Elements, it is one of the more surprisingly coherent remix efforts of the past few years. For some reason the producer opened with a horrible Tommie Sunshine take on “Yalel”, featuring a beat that sounds like it came packaged on Ableton. It improves drastically when Cheb I Sabbah steps up on the dark “Shashkin”, and keeps moving forward as Amon Tobin and Junior Sanchez keep things deep.

Nickodemus is joined by label mate and friend Zeb, whose lifelong knowledge of oud playing and gypsy music helps turn the Sufi-based “Whirling” into a floor-stomper. While having Joe Claussell’s name on the record is good for PR, his remix is unexceptional, though not altogether a lost cause. Better is newcomer Jordan Lieb, who makes “Laz” the absolute champion of Rare Elements: a heavy bass jam on the house tip that’s promises to circulate for some time.

Artist: Novalima

Album: Coba Coba Remixed

Label: Cumbancha

US Release Date: 2009-16-06

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/cobacoba-cover.jpgZeb returns to his other love, reggae, for a Latin-fueled take on “Ruperta” on Cumbancha’s renditions of Peruvian band Novalima, Coba Coba Remixed. The source material is rich with percussion and vocals, making it a great choice to retune for the floors. Some do better than others: Zeb is solid, and Da Lata create a happy dance floor hit on “Tumbala”. The always-dependable Faze Action does a nice job on “Yo Voy”, although their decision to make it a disco smash, with a weird progressive bass line, is questionable. The bottom end leads the charge, as it should, making Faze Action one to drop into the mix. Also notable is Boozoo Bajou’s soft, melodic version of “Africa Landó”.

Never least, Venezuelan space aliens Los Amigos Invisibles finally rectify some label issues with Luaka Bop to drop Commercial on Nacional Records.

Artist: Los Amigos Invisibles

Album: Commercial

Label: Nacional

US Release Date: 2000-06-09

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/commercial-cover.jpgThis band has always been about the live show. They have been able to translate that feel onto record—no small feat. This album is no different. It sounds like their previous three, which is not a bad thing; repetition works for some bands, and given their dynamic, they make the cut. They make throw-your-hand-up and dance music, something soaked into these 50-minutes. Outside of the off moment -- their attempt at rock en espanol, “Merengue Killer”, probably stems from their sense of humor; fortunately it is only a minute and change long -- they remain on for the duration. This band is about funk and groove, and with tracks like “Vivire Para Ti” and “Oyeme Nana”, they fully deliver the goods.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.