WORLD MUSIC SHORT TAKES
by J. Pepper
Vusi Mahlasela, Shebeen Queen
Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane is a Sotho South African singer-songwriter. Described widely as an African folk artist, his latest offering Shebeen Queen is a tribute to his late grandmother Ida (called Magogo), who raised him in the township of Mamelodi, where he still lives today. The new album is a beautifully joyful tribute recorded live, giving it a spontaneous and vibrant appeal. Jangling guitar and zesty vocals adorn each track for a celebratory listen. A solid listen throughout and a befitting tribute to the matriarch of Mahlasela’s heart.
Bebel Gilberto, Agora
An album conceived amid the tragedy of losing her best friend who perished from a heart attack and her mother’s passing from lung cancer. Her father’s death, a legendary figure in bossa nova João Gilberto, lends a flash of brilliance to the music contained within Agora. Filled with a modernistic approach, her Brazilian melodies offer an electronic music overtone, replete with swirls and effects. The vocalist navigates her way through sensuous melodies and dreamy soundscapes with her breathy and, at times, sing-speak styling. Produced by Thomas Bartlett (Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent), the album is a befitting and heartfelt tribute to the resilience of love and loss.
The Mavericks, En Español
Latin, yes, definitely! World – well, that is debatable, but that is how label MONO MUNDO RECORDINGS has it categorized in the retail outlets. What I hear more than anything is a tex-mex country flavor, with a bit of spaghetti western weaved into the fabric, and undoubtedly traditional Mexican and Cubano aesthetic. Whatever you call it, it’s superb music. Produced by the band’s longtime creative partner Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Prince, Sheryl Crow) and Mavericks lead singer and principal songwriter Raul Malo. En Español offers a stellar collection of performances that are authentic and highly listenable. The harmonies which are such an integral part of the Hispanic music tradition are on full display. What I found most appealing was the reverence that each cut was treated with. Its authenticity is sublime. Let’s put it this way, any recording that features Flaco Jiménez is an immediate thumbs up!