Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ripples Around the World – Featuring Systema Solar, Gecko Turner, and the Nagore Sessions

Time for another trip around the musical compass and check out some of the cooler world music that has made its way into the Ripple office recently.  And for those who (like me, and Pope, and Ray’s Realm) loved the Amadou & Miriam Magic Couple CD, I just picked up the 2xLP set Welcome to Mali, so expect a run down of that one soon.

Systema Solar – S/T

Coming from the Colombian Caribbean, Systema Solar party out with a DJ-based music that basks over the body like a wash of feel-good sunshine.  Totally Infectious, colorful, and light, Systema is a Spanish blend of cumbia and champeta music; gang vocal heavy, beat intense, and a swirling good time. 

Songs like "Bienvenidos," Mi Kolombia" and "El Majagual" are just made for a beach party replete with bikinis, rum drinks, and mischief.  I understand that underneath the feel-good exterior and good-time vibe the song’s lyrics touch upon of the sadness of that war-torn nation.  But you’d never know that on casual listen.  As is so often the case, from the areas of the greatest despair comes the greatest reasons to reaffirm the joy of life and dance.  Simply dance.

Gecko Turner – Gone Down South

Not world music in the truest sense, but certainly there’s a lot of world jive running through this immensely cool, languid, and laid back offering by Gecko Turner.  For those not familiar, Gecko (real name Fernando Gabriel Echave Pelaez) is a Spanish musician based near the border between Spain and Portugal.  As you might (or not) expect from this geography, Gecko’s music incorporates bossa nova, soul, funk, reggae, jazz and electronica into one heady, transcendental mix.

On Gone Down South, Gecko returns with laid back acoustic guitar and an all-familiar, never-letting-him-down groove.  On this, his first album since, 2006’s Guapapasea, Gecko emerges in fine form.  With is relaxed voice, gentle picks at the guitar, you could easily be misled into thinking the album’s of the sensitive singer-songwriter, vein.  But it sure isn’t.  Let the beats build, some Cuban piano peaks it’s head in, a Spanish trumpet, a little mbira sugest a love of Africa, as do some of the harmony vocals.  I’d be hard pressed to pick out a favorite track here, but “Amame, Mimame,” with it’s deep, near blues guitar lick, near scat vocals, wonderful group chorus, and, was that a touch of wah I heard?  Nicely done.

But in the end, a Gecko album is about Gecko, his amazingly relaxed voice, gently lilting through the groove.  Always a good time is at hand.

Various – The Nagore Sessions of South India

Around the corner from me is an ashram.  Specifically, the Ashram retreat of Amma, known around the world as the “hugging Saint.”  She’s been featured on every news channel around the world, Time, Newsweek, you name it.  I guess it’s just a nice coincidence that a spiritual being of such magnitude has her world-wide headquarters just a few miles from my home, but there it is.  For years, I used to stop by her Ashram and eat my lunch at the lake with the swans.  When Amma was in town, I’d stopped by for seva, or a retreat, or even the Bhagavad Gita.  While certainly not a Hindi, I’ve lost myself for hours in the bhajans, the devotional songs of the Ashram.  Meditative, hypnotic, mesmerizing.   You don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to be taken away by the music.

The Sufi-inspired chants the Nagore Sessions are backed with traditional instrumentation and modern beats, creating a downtempo, lilting, compelling moment.  An escape from the stress of the world into a hazy veil of meditative trance. As a whole, the music is more traditional than electronic but there’s a nice balance of the modern with the ancient.  The chants, sung in Tamil, are borrowed from traditional Indian texts and are framed with drum, strings, tabla, sitar, and harmonium.  Overall, the result is otherworldly, bringing in tones of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Indian sounds into a mystical symphony of Sufi singing and beat.  Enchanting.



Penfold said...

Hey Racer. Man, I dug all three of these acts. Admittedly I liked the first two a little more simply because I am more familiar with Latin music, but fantastic stuff all around!

The Ripple Effect said...

Hey Pen,

Thanks for the nice comments. I gotta say, sometimes I get a bit leery writing about world music right after we lay down some heavy metal . . . but that's the Ripple.

I spent a huge part of my life listening to nothing but world music, so it's a part of me.

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