Best Music of 2002: Gypsy Flores

Gypsy Flores

My Top Ten Favorites of 2002

Umani, I Muvrini (AGFB/EMI)
I Muvrini's latest release Umani (Humans) is a gorgeous collection of pop songs sung in Corsican, Spanish, and French. Although the album contains no traditional polyphonic songs, it does feature the usual stunning vocals from brothers Jean-François and Alain Bernardini along with members of the group -- Joséphina Fernandez, Martin Vadella, Stéphane Mangiantini and César Anot. There are also guest appearances with M.C. Solaar on "A Jalalabad" (a song about the women of Afghanistan also sung with two Afghani sisters, Zarina and Manila Fazel), Luz Casal on "Erein eta Joan" (a hidden track on the CD), and Stéphan Eicher on one of the most beautiful and poignant songs "Un Sognu Pe Campà/Un Rève Pour Vivre". Umani features two characteristic slow passionately sung songs--the aforementioned one with Stéphan Eicher and the exquisite Baià, sung solo by Jean-François. Still, it is one of the most joyous sounding recordings that I Muvrini have ever done. See my other reviews of I Muvrini's CDs at: and

Milagro Acustico, Il Storie Ò Cafè Di Lu Furestíero (Tinder)
The premise of Il Storie Ò Cafè Di Lu Furestíero is an imaginary cafè on a small Sicilian island where foreigners come to drink, eat, play music, listen to music and to tell their stories. The leader of Milagro Acustico, Bob Salmieri, is a musician, composer, poet, storyteller, and world traveler. He composed all the pieces on this CD except for Dioulo, which was written by Papa Kanouté, kora player and guest musician on this recording. The tracks segue together as one long story with 11 very compelling chapters. Like a good book that is hard to put down, Il Storie Ò Cafè Di Lu Furestíero will live in your CD player for quite some time as you linger over each tale. I also believe that this CD would win the most beautiful "Cover for a CD for 2002" award.

Pham Duc Thanh, Vietnamese Traditional Dan Bau Music (Oliver Sudden)
Music from Southeast Asia is some of my very favorite. I frequently tell listeners to my radio show that it is akin to "blues from another delta." The dan bau is a monochord with one steel string attached to a piece of wood and has a flexible handle carved out of a buffalo horn. The instrument is played by plucking this steel string with a bamboo pick, while the player moves the flexible handle; thus even though the instrument has only one string, the instrument has about three octaves. Pham Duc Thanh is a master of this instrument as well as many others. He has one other CD on this label simple titled Vietnamese Traditional Music where not only does he play many other traditional instruments of Viet Nam but his wife, Nguyet Lan, sings. Oliver Sudden is a label based in Canada and although there are few recordings that they have released, every one of them is superb and of the highest quality both in the music, graphics, and liner notes for each of their CD's.

Radicanto, Lettere Migrante (CNI/Compagnia Nuove Indye)
This is the third recording by Radicanto, a group from the Apulian region of Italy. Their music is characterized by very fine vocals, excellent musicianship and an innovative style. Though Radicanto's music is firmly based in the Italian tradition, they compose much of it themselves and add not only instruments from other parts of the world, but other traditions as well. This one ventures more into the realm of jazz than their other two CDs (Terra Arsa -- Corde Pelli E Papiri and Echi Di Gente). Lettere Migrante is a project examining the various cultures of immigrants in Italy whom are known as "The Others." These are people who are often looked on with fear and suspicion. With Lettere Migrante, Radicanto hopes to open people's eyes to the beauty and rich heritage that the mingling of cultures can create. I believe that they have successfully done this with this extraordinary recording.

Mariza, Fado Em Mim (Times Square Records/World Connections)

Cristina Branco, Corpo Illuminado (Universal)

Miguel Poveda, Zaguan (Harmonia Mundi)
Award winning Miguel Poveda is definitely one of the finest of the young flamenco singers in Spain today. His rich and emotionally packed voice conveys all the suffering, passion and sorrow that is flamenco music -- known in Spanish as duende. Miguel does not fall in to the current "rumba" flamenco craze made popular by The Gypsy Kings and other groups who have added the element of pop music to flamenco. Instead, he utilizes just guitar or piano accompaniment and sometimes a light use of trap drums in the background -- and of course, palmas, the hand-clapping that is so distinctive to flamenco music.

Owain Phyfe and The New World Renaissance Band, Tales From the Vineyard
Owain Phyfe has to possess one of the most compelling voices around -- his voice is sweet and expert without sounding overly trained. Tales From The Vineyard was the first recording that I had heard by him and I was immediately enchanted -- harp, viola da gamba, cello, recorders and other such instruments abound. On this recording, Owain sings songs from the Renaissance of Europe and one incredibly beautiful song from the Ukraine. This (and all of the recordings on this label) are just made for those long cold winter nights where you are curled up by a fire, on a comfortable chair with your cat in your lap and a glass of fine, dry French wine at your table side. (Or if you are not in the mood for wine, I also love curling up with this recording and a glass of hot steamed milk with just a wee bit of maple syrup in it).

Masters of Persian Music, Without You (World Village)
The masters of Persian music are Kayhan Kalhor who plays the kemençe (spike fiddle), Hossein Alizadeh on setar (plucked lute), Mohamed Reza Shazarian, vocals, and Mohamed's young son, Homayoun on tombak (goblet drum) and vocals. These "masters" play the classical music of Iran which is traditionally based on poetry set to music. Without You is a stunning live performance featuring the works of the great Persian mystical poets Taher, Attar, Mowlavi (Rumi) and Hafez. Persian music is based on certain modes; but the players explore these modes through improvisation. The singing is characteristically intense. I was fortunate enough to see a performance of these great masters in a concert in Santa Cruz, California this year.

Formatta Valea Mare, Departe De Casa (M A Recordings)
Nobody plays music faster than Romanians -- especially Romanian gypsies! Formatta Valea Mare are no exception. The owner and producer of M A Recordings, Todd Garfinkle, met this wild group of guys on the Paris Metro. He was so impressed that he recorded them at a cathedral in Orléans shortly after. The album begins with a rather humorous scat singing of the tune that they are about to play on their instruments. This was a suggestion of Todd's, they thought it rather silly, but did it anyway. The result served to break the ice as they sing and giggle their way through; then they come in on their instruments and take off with no looking back! Besides being virtuoso musicians, they are thoroughly infectious and guaranteed to raise even the gloomiest of spirits. They make it difficult to sit in a chair and merely listen, one finds themselves getting up and doing a sirba or a briul right along with them. (Just a note on M A Recordings for the serious audiophile, not only is the quality of the music superb; but each recording on the label is done with only two omnidirectional microphones in locations such as cathedrals, etc. giving them not only perfect acoustics but adding "space" as another element to the music).

Honorable Mentions:

Ambrozijn, Kabonka (Wild Boar Music)
Wonderful group from Belgium joined by vocalists Sylvie Berger and their producer Gabriel Yacoub. If you liked the French group Malicorne, you will like Ambrozijn even better.

Pangéo, Northern Borders (Regional Music of Greece)

Danubius, Danubius (Web of Mimicry)
Hungarian and Romanian Music very well played by this group of Americans.

Anoush, Sweet! (self-released)
Greek and Albanian Music

I Campagnoli, Versa di Vita (self-released)
Corsican Music

Peter "Puma" Hedlund, Vägen (Allwin)
Master nyckelharpa player from Sweden

A Filetta, Intantu (Saravah)
Group from Corsica-if you saw the Bruno Coulais film titled Himalaya then you heard this group of singers on the soundtrack.

Anouar Brahem, Le Pas Du Chat Noir (ECM)
Superb Tunisian oud music combined with the piano of François Couturier and the accordion of Jean-Louis Matinier.





'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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