This year I’ve enlisted some writers from beyond the PopMatters universe to compile our best-of list: Cliff Furnald, founder and editor of Rootsworld, the online world music magazine, and two regular Rootsworld contributors, Lee Blackstone and Michael Stone. Michal Shapiro is a New York-based videographer who regularly covers international acts. She contributes not album reviews but videos of three memorable performances from the past year.
Our album picks cover Brazil, Cuba, Cyprus, Gaza, Italy, Mali, Romania, Occitania (southern France), Estonia, and Canada. They demonstrate world music’s “glocality” ― though rooted in particular local idioms (southern Italian pizzica; Cypriot folk music), the recordings also incorporate elements from other traditions and genres (Subcarpaţi’s mix of hiphop, techno, and Romanian folk.) Politics figure strongly in a number of the selections (the “electronic intifada” of the Palestinian collective, Checkpoint 303; the protest songs of Italy’s Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino).
Michal Shapiro’s camera captured New York appearances by Tunisian vocalist Emel Mathlouthi at GlobalFEST 2015 and the Guinean-Canadian duo Fula Flute, at the Jazz Journalists Association Awards 2015 held at the Blue Note jazz club. From Budapest, Shapiro brings us Belem, the folk-fusion duo of Didier Laloy and Kathy Adam, at the WOMEX festival.
Furnald, Stone, and Blackstone each have chosen three albums; my pick rounds out our top ten. The list is in alphabetical order according to the performer’s name, followed by links to Shapiro’s videos.—George de Stefano
CANZONIERE GRECANICO SALENTINO
The past year was a landmark one for Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (aka CGS), a band from the Salento peninsula of Italy’s southern Puglia region. The road-tested ensemble has attracted a devoted following far beyond their home base, thrilling audiences throughout Italy, Europe, North America, and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) with their up-to-date take on pizzica tarantata, a centuries-old folk form that originally was a ritual healing music. The band was founded in 1975 by singer-songwriter Daniele Durante and his cousin Rina; Daniele’s son Mauro, a virtuoso violinist and percussionist, heads the current edition. Quaranta (40) acknowledges the band’s history while the American folk/world music producer Ian Brennan leads them in some new directions. There’s less pizzica than on its predecessor, Pizzica Indiavolata and more contemporary folk music and folk-derived material; there even are Appalachian echoes (“Pu e to rodo t’orio”). Just as noteworthy is the album’s political stance, with protest songs that take on environmental destruction, unemployment and poverty, and immigration, past and present. With Quaranta, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino has made an outstanding album that feels both of the moment and timeless.
— George de Stefano