There is nothing quite like music to conjure up a sense of place, inspire us to travel - or flood our minds with memories. We share our favourite music from around the world.
Amadou & Mariam – Dimanche à Bamako
Sung mostly in French, the tracks on this innovative album offer a range of different rhythms and unusual arrangements – often with a toe-tapping feel-good factor. M’bifé, the opening track, is gentle and melodic, featuring acoustic guitar and Mariam’s intoxicating vocals. Other highlights include the faster paced Sénégal Fast Food, featuring harmonica, trumpet, trombone and the ever-wonderful Manu Chao as guest vocalist; and Djanfa, another beautiful sunny track that conjures up images of summer.
Duncan Chisholm – Affric
Affric is the concluding album in Duncan Chisholm’s inspiring Strathglass trilogy – an epic musical journey through the stunning glens of the Scottish Highlands. Composing music that conveys the magnificent beauty of this region is no mean feat – but Chisholm has succeeded. From the gentle, opening strains of An Ribhinn Donn and upbeat Big Archie to energetic Running the Cross and the poignant concluding piece, Night in that Land, the tracks flow seamlessly – a little like the river Affric itself, sometimes tranquil and meandering and sometimes tumbling playfully over rocks – to create a cohesive whole that you’ll want to revisit again and again. The first two albums in the trilogy – Farrar and Canaich – are equally addictive. Beautiful.
Damia Timoner – Fet a Mà
Classical guitar doesn’t come more intoxicating than this. Mallorcan musician Damia Timoner learnt to play Spanish guitar as a child, and began writing his own compositions in his early 20s. Fet a Mà (“handmade” in Catalan) is a modern, original and light-hearted take on traditional Spanish guitar music, with layered harmonies and tuneful melodies that will stick in your head for days. The opening track, Aurora Boreal, sets you up for the delights to come – also listen out for the excellent cover of the Kiss song, Beth.
Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome
Many people would include The Boss in a playlist for a US road trip, but We Shall Overcome is very different to the likes of Born in the USA. Bruce got a bunch of musicians together, set up in his living room, and started playing some American folk songs – some of which, such as opening track Old Dan Tucker, are well over 100 years-old. The whole album has an air of genuine spontaneity about it, with accordion, fiddle, banjo, washboard, a chorus of different voices – and Bruce counting the band in at the beginning of tracks – all adding to the impromptu air. Perfect for US road trips, of course – and with some great sing-along tracks like Froggie Went a Courtin’, the album should keep the kids amused on long car journeys too.
Ana Alcaide – Com la Luna y el Sol
Ana Alcaide’s music is unique. Inspired by the centuries-old music of the Sephardic people – evicted from Spain five centuries ago – she takes short, simple traditional medieval songs and embellishes them to create evocative, melodic pieces. The music uses traditional instruments – in particular the nyckelharpa, a keyed fiddle that originated in Sweden and dates back to the Middle Ages. Percussion features strongly too – lending a Middle Eastern atmosphere to many of the tracks. Considering the history of the Sephardic people, you might expect the sound of Como La Luna y el Sol to be mournful. But, although occasionally haunting, the album is frequently uplifting. Oh, and Ana’s voice is gorgeous.
Without Gravity – Tenderfoot
Icelandic folk band Without Gravity produced just one album before splitting up. Tenderfoot, featuring acoustic guitars, gentle percussion and simple, sometimes sad, lyrics (mercifully in English, for those of us that don’t speak Icelandic) is perfect Sunday morning music. Songs are full of the natural landscape: waterfalls, rivers, clouds – and if you find you can’t get enough of lead singer Kalli’s soulful, breathy vocals, you’ll be pleased to know he has since released two solo albums: While the City Sleeps and Last Train Home.
Samite – Dance my Children, Dance
Samite was born and raised in Uganda, and after learning to play the flute during childhood became one of east Africa’s most acclaimed musicians. Dance my Children, Dance features Samite’s smooth vocals along with various instruments including kalimba, flute and African percussion. Some of the tracks on this album – such as Kakokolo and Waterfall – are as soothing as a lullaby, with gentle, repetitive vocals and soft, slow rhythms. Others – such as Abaana Bakesa and Mbonakalinda – are more upbeat, and just like the album title, will encourage you to dance.
Manu Chao – Proxima Estacion Esperanza
Manu Chao is world-renowned for his infectious beats, catchy vocals and global sound. Featuring lyrics in Spanish, French, English, Portuguese and Arabic, the album is an eclectic fusion of reggae, pop, electronica and more, with a healthy dose of Latin rhythms – and a fantastic horn section. Always light-hearted, fun and entertaining, Esperanza offers a happy-go-lucky sound that’s just right for long, sultry summer evenings. The tracks merge wonderfully into each other – it’s definitely an album to be listened to as a whole, from start to finish. If you’re feeling a bit down, stick this on the stereo – it’s guaranteed to cheer you up! Addictive.
Ernest Ranglin – Below the Bassline
Jamaican Ernest Ranglin – now in his 80s and still recording and performing – has been involved in the international music scene for much of his life, working with the likes of Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. Below the Bassline features Ranglin’s inimitable rhythmic electric guitar in a funky fusion of jazz and reggae.
Sharon Shannon – The Galway Girl: the best of Sharon Shannon
Sharon Shannon is best known for playing the accordion, but she’s also a mean hand on the fiddle – she played both instruments on The Waterboys’ Room to Roam album. The Galway Girl is a great introduction to the musician’s work with many of her foot-stomping, feel-good Irish folk tunes – Bag of Cats being a classic example – and a sprinkling of tracks featuring guest artists such as Steve Earle, Kirsty MacColl and Mike Scott.
Green Adventures May 2015
Click on the images of the albums to visit Amazon.co.uk, hear samples of the music (no samples available for some CDs) and buy.