I first heard Falu at a concert in a yoga studio, about 6 years ago. There was a buzz about her then, but her presentation was quite different. Falguni Shah (Falu) seemed bird-like, fragile and shy although her voice was strong and assured. Over time, I was sent a CD and I kept track of her in an oblique way, as her various publicists kept me informed. Everyone knew she was talented, but I personally never felt that the package was quite right. Now, with the release of the independently produced Foras Road, I think she has found a production sound that fits her artistic explorations, and is the right setting for her fine voice. Kudos to producer and bass player Danny Blume for that.
Not that Falu hasn't had her triumphs in the intervening years; she has done her share of high-profile gigs playing with her band for the Dalai Lama, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. She has collaborated with the likes of A.R, Rahman and Yo-Yo Ma. She emerges now as a sleek, confident performer with a devoted following both within and outside of the Indian community.
Her sound, as you will hear, is a mix of different worlds. In this song "Ghumar," for example, a Dhol drum pounds out a bhangra beat, while a Givson (no that's not a misprint, it's not a Gibson) mandolin provides the textural ear candy as Falu's sinuous voice hovers and dips through complex, compelling melodies. The lady has chops, for sure, honed by a lifetime of rigorous study with various Indian vocal gurus.
The Highline Ballroom was packed, and this video was taken from the balcony, so I was thankful for the zoom on my camcorder. And besides "Ghumar" there were several real standouts from the show as well; "Savan" was a deeply sensuous song of longing accompanied by the versatile Mark Tewarson on dobro, injecting a languid, country blues feel. In "Eastbound," Falu utilized the taan technique, a kind of scatting, in a rapid-fire exchange with the tablas of Deep Singh. For "Bahaar" Falu brought out an actual string quartet to perform on stage with her, and it worked beautifully. The band itself was tight and spirited, rounded out by the excellent David Sharma on kit drums, Soumya Chatterjee on violin, and Gaurav Shah on harmonium and vocals.
I had invited my niece Rachel to the concert, whose ears are quite open, but whose contact with Indian vocal music has been minimal. On the way home she asked me "Why is it that when we hear a voice singing, we feel such a direct physical and emotional connection?" While the answer to this question may seem axiomatic, the fact that she raised this issue speaks volumes about the caliber of Falu's performance.
The performance at the Highline was co-sponsored by the Indo-American Arts Council, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 arts organization whose mission is to showcase and build an awareness for performing, visual and literary arts from/of/about the Indian subcontinent.
For more information about Foras Road the CD, and Falu, visit: falumusic.com
For more information about the Indo-American Arts Council visit: iaac.us
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com.
We can listen to a song and think we know the singer. And in the case of Violeta Parra (1917-1967) perhaps this is so.
She seems to spring fully formed at us, an autodidact revolutionary and creative to an impossible degree. She was the mother of the Nueva Canción movement, tirelessly researching the rich folkloric music of Chile, taking nourishment from it, and going on to create her own uncannily free, sophisticated yet utterly passionate songs. Her artworks were exhibited at the Louvre, and she single handedly legitimized her native culture in the eyes of the world. All this, in a country where women were first given the vote in 1952.
This is no news for Chileans. But perhaps it is news for you. Have I whetted your curiosity?
Violeta Went to Heaven, a film by Andres Wood, and starring Francisca Gavilán as Violeta Parra will be opened at New York's Lincoln Center Plaza Cinemas and Quad Cinema March 29. It may go on to play at a cinema near you -- or maybe by now you can rent it!
I am so glad that I was able to interview the director, because his film is an open-ended work of art in many ways. Wood has not attempted a documentary, nor for that matter, the kind of narrative style that might keep us in our comfort zone. He gives us Violeta's world, a world in which happiness is bliss and every sorrow is a mortal wound. It is a vivid cinematic improvisation, much as Violeta's life was an improvisation. Francisca Gavilán delivers a performance that is deep in its understanding of character, and faithful to Parra's soul and musicality. I must also commend the arrangement for "Arriba Quemando el Sol," which lifts the song out of its simpler (but powerful) harmonic folk base and onto another, higher plane that speaks to the kind of pivotal life change that the film's story requires of it.
Kino Lorber has kindly given me the music clips I requested which speak for themselves, (be sure to watch them!) and Andres Wood was eloquent in answering my questions. Here is my report.
If you love music, great acting and challenging cinematography, see this film.
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com.
Located about 50 kilometers from Barcelona, Manresa is a small, laid back Catalonian city. It has its picturesque Old Section as well as an impressive, well-appointed cathedral, and the famous monastery of Montserrat is perched on a nearby rocky mountaintop. But the Fira Mediterránia de Manresa, a four day celebration and Trade Fair going into its 16th year, stirs the place up and brings the population into the concert halls and out onto the streets to enjoy a meticulously programmed whirlwind of music, cinema, dance, theater and more. The joint gets jumpin'. If you’ve got a trip to Spain planned in November, make sure you include this festival in your itinerary.
Because the event takes place all over town, it was necessary to pick and choose my coverage and up front I'll tell you that what I have captured in my video is only a small slice of it. In particular, I did not cover the imported acts, because I was curious about the local Catalan culture specifically, and fine as these other artists were, I felt they would divert me from my focus. I'll always regret not catching Hermanos Cuberos, who according to the festival book combine music from the Alcarra region of Spain with bluegrass!
And I also have to say a word about the food. It was everywhere, and if you knew where to go, (and could deal with the siesta closings) it was excellent. I brought back 2 bags of little dried local mushrooms which I am using slowly, when the dish calls for their distinctive taste and texture. They are tiny treasures.
I was fortunate to be staying at the same hotel as Dave Ellwand who has researched and written about Catalan food, music and mores. Our conversations over breakfast were informative and tantalizing, so I simply had to include him at some point in the video; credit where credit is due. He has provided some links to further information and events below.
And because this video is just a quick survey, here are links to full songs.
To see the full song by Evo, go to: inter-muse.com/blog/2013/04/16/evo-performs-at-fira-mediterrania-de-manresa/
To see a (different) full song by Els Berros de la Cort go to: inter-muse.com/blog/2013/01/11/medieval-songs-of-sex-from-catalonia-els-berros-de-la-cort/
For full performance of "Waka Waka" by Els Laietans go to: inter-muse.com/blog/2013/03/16/els-laietans-at-the-fira-mediterrania-de-manresa/
For more information about the festival visit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fira_Mediterrania_in_Manresa
For an archived radio programme about the previous year's festival: prx.org/pieces/85507-mediterrania-taste-of-the-music-of-people-of-ca
Links to Catalan Music resources:
Government culture ministry sites: Catalan!Arts: traditional music cd (free) catalanarts.cat/web/?q=en/node/412
And a free E Magazine: issuu.com/catalanarts/docs/catalan__music_emagazine_eng_4
An earlier edition about Roots music from the region: issuu.com/catalanarts/docs/catalan__music_emagazine_eng_2/1
CAT centre has an annual festival of Catalan/Valencian/Balearic/Basque performances from January to April as well as year round music teaching and summer schools.* Information about all festivals is easiest to get on catalanarts.cat/web/?q=en
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com.
The complete band is not a trio, and on opening night, Ana Araujo on vocals and percussion, and Hugo Lins on bass rounded out the ensemble on the big stage. But I was unable to get a satisfactory shoot from the performance that night, so I was glad to catch her gig at the tiny Pikant Café, perched above the town's river.
That is the beauty of the Forde festival, you can hear music in venues large and small all over the town and its environs, from concert halls, to classrooms and churches, even to mountain tops! This means that if you miss one show, you will likely be able to see the artist perform again. Indeed, Ms. Rosa said that of the many performances she gave, she thought the show at the Pikant was particularly strong, perhaps due to the proximity of the audience.
The place was jammed, both inside and on the outside deck, but I was able to score a chair in the corner and stand on it. (Sorry about that backlight, what can ya do.) Pepe da Silva here plays a 10 stringed guitar, Lucas dos Pazeres plays percussion. Everyone sings; indeed for me, it was the part singing that really drew me in, and I have to say the musicianship was mighty high all around.
Despite its traditional sound, the first song -- Corta o Pau -- is an original by Ms. Rosa. She wrote of it to me: "Its rhythm is called Coco de Roda. This composition has different influences such as indigenous vocal polyphonies, rabeca (traditional fiddle) played in the cavalo-marinho tradition (a kind of street performance) and the Viola (10 stringed guitar) played in the northeastern tradition.
The second Song -- Piau -- is her adaptation of a folk song. She writes, "It's rhythm is from our Afrobrazilian ritual called macumba."
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com
The UN General Assembly's yearly get-together is a time for high-flying international diplomacy between world leaders. The General Debate, in particular, allows all world leaders who participate in the United Nations to deliver a public address to the General Assembly. As such, it has been used as a highly-visible platform by many countries' representatives to push their views.
This year's debate theme was "Adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means," which seems a little tongue-in-cheek given the current situation in parts of the Middle East and Africa.
As BBC Arabic reported that Somali and African forces were closing in on the final al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali gave his remarks at the Assembly, saying that there was no place in Somalia for the "few ideological extremists" in the Islamist group's ranks.
Barack Obama's appearance at the UN was brief, which some say was to avoid tough discussions with other world leaders on Iran and Syria. He honored Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in an attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, and condemned the American-made film that criticized Islam's Prophet Muhammad and sparked anti-US riots across the Muslim world. Meanwhile, Libya's new president, Mohamed Yousek al-Magariaf, apologized for the attacks, and apologized to the world on behalf of Libya for Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule.
With regard to Syria, world leaders condemned the violence across the board, but their approaches to end the conflict varied greatly. According to IBA News, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Jordan's King Abdullah II both called for Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying that the Syrian president's ouster is vital to the success of peace efforts.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported the Syrian regime, and criticized the efforts by the Western world to interfere in what he sees as an internal conflict. Ahmadinejad, in his last speech to the Assembly as a world leader, also spoke of his belief in the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ and the twelfth imam, Imam al-Mahdi, whom Shiites believe will come at the end times with the prophet Jesus to help humanity. The United States and Israel were both absent from the General Assembly Hall when he gave his remarks.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the United Nations with a long-anticipated bid to join the UN General Assembly as an observer. The Palestinian Authority previously asked the UN for full member status last year, but had been rejected by the Security Council, which has the Israel ally, the United States, as a permanent member with veto power. Press TV reports that Abbas also lambasted Israel for its "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians, as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. A UN report that came at the beginning of the week and before the General Assembly meeting echoed similar statements-- that Israel must do more to halt the abuse of Palestinian rights.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stole the show by using a prop, which has not been done in the General Assembly since the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi pulled out a copy of the UN Charter and threw it in the air in 2009. Netanyahu used a picture of a cartoon bomb and drew a red line through it to illustrate how far Iran has come in enriching uranium, and how the United Nations must draw a red line for the country before it acquires enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Press TV analysts expressed concern over Netanyahu's mental health following this incident.
Outside of the Assembly Hall, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Rahmin Mehmanparast captured the attention of the American channel Fox News after he was attacked by a group of "about 100" Iranian dissident protestors on a New York City sidewalk. He managed to flag down an NYPD police car, but according to Dubai TV, the cops appeared "uninterested."
Image: Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on a bomb illustration at the UN General Assembly, September 27, 2012. Press TV / United Nations