Sunday 2 December 2012

"Traces" by Karine Polwart
It has been a fair while between drinks for fans of Scottish songsmith Karine Polwart. Her new CD "Traces" contains songs that have had a 2-3 year gestation period during which they have been performed live and finely honed to perfection. The title refers to traces of things, people or places left behind when they are gone. The wonderfully poignant "Salters Road" is a eulogy for a beloved 90 year old neighbour who passed away. "Strange news" is a song written in a state of disbelief on hearing of the sudden death of a cousin. There are also eulogies to particular places and what makes them personal to Polwart. There is pure poetry in the lyrics of Polwart's songs, words which wash over you and leave vivid imagery in their wake. The instrumentation and voices are sparse and sweet. Often it is the space in between the sounds which speaks volumes. Brother Steven Polwart plays guitar, Inge Thomson plays accordion and both harmonise beautifully with Karine's own voice. The sound is augmented by such instruments as Indian harmonium, Shruti box, piano, clarinet, flute, trumpet, marimba and other percussion. It is a distinctly accoustic and analogue feel on the whole and the overall feel of the album is life affirming and uplifting. "Don't Worry", "Cover Your Eyes" and "King of Birds" all have great political relevance. All 10 songs are cut and polished gems where layers of sounds build to dramatic and cinematic effect. Most definitely one of the best releases of 2012.
Bending The Dark - The Imagined Village
It's five years since Simon Emmerson took a break from the Afro Celt Sound System to embark on a new venture called The Imagined Village. Recognising the multicultural balti that England had become, Emmerson brought together an extremely diverse bunch of musicians to help bring English Folk kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. There have been quite a few personnel changes along the way to this, their third CD, and these changes have only added to the spice and variety of the project. This incarnation has brought together English Folk legends Martin Carthy and daughter Eliza, Jackie Oates, sitar player extraordinaire Sheema Mukhterjee, dhol drummer Jonny Kalsi, and the rock steady drum and bass duo Andy Gangadeen and Ali Friend, together with a red hot brass section. The set opens with Jackie Oates and a sweetly sung but sad and perfunctory finger-in-the-ear story about the heartless slaying of "The Captain's Apprentice" on a ship bound for Spain. It segues into "New York Trader", which introduces the whole ensemble with a brightness and communal vigour that we haven't quite heard in their previous releases. The schedule of writing together, playing live, then recording and then touring to promote the CD seems to have paid handsome dividends. Some of the tracks, such as "The Guvna", have great immediacy - Lush arrangements, with touches of dub and drum & bass and bursts of dhol drums, are overlaid with fiddles and sitar. But for the first few listens, some of the songs don't quite gel - there is so much going on that there is a danger of it all becoming just too muddy. But perseverance pays off. While not as immediate as the first two releases, Bending The Dark is a complex, adventurous work, with twists and turns and layer upon layer of rewards in store. The best example of this is the 12 minute title track which finishes off the CD. Written by Mukhterjee as a commission for the River of Music Festival that was held during the Olympic Games, it plays on the theme of "bending the dha" (a note on the sitar) and with time signatures that thoroughly test the ensemble, it is a remarkable celebration of the modern day multicultural nature of England.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Ondatropica "Ondatropica"

In the same way that London has its legendary Abbey Road studios, and Kingston Jamaica has its Studio One, Medellin in Colombia has Discos Fuentes. An iconic record label and studio since 1934, it is sometimes referred to as an Afro-Colombian Motown. Discos Fuentes was instrumental in introducing African-based genres such as cumbia, fandango and porro to the wider world. In January 2011, English DJ and producer Will "Quantic" Holland, long-time resident of Colombia, teamed up with local musician Mario Galeano ( of "Frente Cumbiero") to convene at these antiquated analogue studios with forty two of the country's leading musicians, young and old to see what musical magic might happen. They invited musicians who had worked there in the 50's and 60's golden era of Colombian music along with the best and brightest of the younger generation. The takes were live onto 4 track tape. Arrangements were written and improvised on the run. But the musicians were all equal to the task and a lush sound resulted, indicative of a very cohesive, co-operative atmosphere for those two frantic weeks of recording. The Brass arrangements in particular are to die for and the percussive drive has a punk-like energy at times. To keep us on our toes, for example, there's even a drunken ensemble version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" There are ska, raps, beatboxing and dub sensibilities merged gloriously with the old-style Afro-Colombian genres - the serenading of the sixties Colombian crooners, such as Michi Sarmiento and Markitos Micolta - and all interwoven with the silky accordion of Anibal 'Sensacion' Velasquez. These younger musicians are realising a dream and playing - live - with their idols in these most legendary of surroundings. There are so many classic tracks on this double CD. My own favourite is "3 Reyes de la Terapia" which mashes up marimbula, accordion and beatbox in a manner never before seen or heard in a Colombian recording studio. It was the final recording made for the LP, laid down on the last night before all the gear was packed away. It has a melancholic not-wanting-it-to-end feel courtesy some beautifully atmospheric analogue reverb and sparse instrumentation. The two producers talk in the liner notes of wanting to create "an atmosphere of true musical discussion, learning and exchange". This they do in spades. But the FUN they had along the way is what is totally infectious. It would be fitting if this release does for Colombian culture what Buena Vista Social Club did for Cuban.

Friday 7 September 2012

"Guzo" by Samuel Yirga
The joint venture between British and Ethiopian musicians called Dub Colossus has been a firm favourite on the Local Global Show for three years now, with "A Town Like Addis", "Addis Through The Looking Glass" and the remix CD "Dub Me Tender" all being quite extraordinary releases by Real World Records. The keyboard player with Dub Colossus is the precocious talent Samuel Yirga. Now in his early twenties he has only been playing piano since the age of fifteen, when he was one of only three out of two thousand applicants to secure a place at the Addis Ababa Music Academy. His parents disapproved of him being a ne'er-do-well musician, but he was quite driven and would practise for twelve hours a day. Eventually the Academy asked him to leave when he persistently refused to perform the classical music that they insisted upon, in favour of more contemporary EthioJazz compositions that he preferred to play. "Guzo" is his first solo CD and is one of the standout releases of 2012. Partly recorded in Addis, partly in London and produced by Nick Page (of Transglobal Underground fame) there are four distinct elements to it. First up, there are some solo piano pieces with his own distinctly Ethiopian filter. Then there is some traditional Ethiopian music with a Jazz tinge, recorded with local Addis musicians - the one stringed violin and plaintive singing plus Fender Rhodes bass. "The Blues of Wollo" is quite outstanding. Thirdly, there is some full-on postmodern BeBop Jazz, sometimes fierce and in your face (with some wild saxophone parts) and at others very introspective and considered. Finally there is the soul / funk crossover fusion from Western music that has inspired him from the 70's and 80's, which features a great brass section and some wonderful harmonies provided by the Criole Choir of Cuba. This is music that is richly layered and textured, taking the listener through a whole gamut of emotions. It is music from the heart but also, at times, highly complex cerebral stuff. Recent research in Canada using Sting as a guinea pig has shown that composing and performing, and also just listening and dancing to, this sort of music can fire up the neurons in one's brain, releasing dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin galore. Great added value indeed for the price of a humble CD!

Friday 27 July 2012

Ten years ago many of these musicians were languishing in a refugee camp in Guinea, a safe haven from the truly awful civil war in Sierra Leone which tore their homeland apart for much of the nineteen nineties. They had lost a lot of relationships and were separated from country, culture, families and loved ones. In the refugee camp they found solace in music which seemed to lessen their suffering, especially when appreciative audiences gathered, totally enthused. After a Canadian relief agency donated two beat up electric guitars, a single microphone and a very basic sound system, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were born. Their first CD - "Living Like a Refugee" - was released in Australia in 2007 . A fairly rough, accoustic sound and, down to earth tales of their lives in the camp, such as the infectious title track and the hilarious "Soda Soap". Some tracks were rough demos recorded in the camp; Others were recorded back at home in Freetown once hostilities had ceased. "Rise and Shine" followed in 2010 - another joyous celebration of lives regained, as they toured the world's festivals, clubs and bars becoming ever tighter musically and given a production polish by Cumbancha Records. Recorded in snow-covered Brooklyn in January 2011 on vintage analogue recording gear and produced by Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah), their new CD "Radio Salone" is an absolute revelation. There's old-style reggae galore, a liberal sprinkling of dub, some hypnotic chanting, a beautifully resonant bass sound, a glorious brass section and touches of joyous soukous and highlife guitars and beats to remind us just where they're from. Between the jokey songs such as "Big Fat Dog" and "Mother In Law", they include songs such as "Reggae Sounds the Message", "Work It Brighter" and "Gbara Case" which chant down "bad-heartedness", "wrong-doing", "men's wars" and "evil ways" (in five different languages) and let us all have one hell of a party at the same time. With springtime barbies just around the corner, if you are looking for some sounds that are relentlessly optimistic, endlessly upbeat and uplifting - look no further than Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The so-called leaders of the two main political parties in Australia really should listen to this music. If either of them had any soul whatsoever, this manifestation of joyous optimism in the face of tremendous suffering would give them a real insight into the lot of the refugee and might encourage them to behave in a more compassionate manner towards those who seek refuge with us on our super-sized island continent. But I'm afraid that's a big if. video from the new CD: video snippet from older doco:

Saturday 30 June 2012

Warsaw Village Band - NORD

Poland's Warsaw Village Band have been performing their modern youthful take on their nation's folk traditions since the late 1990's, but only came to wider international attention with 2003's memorable "People's Spring". Their sixth CD "NORD" has just been released by Jaro in Germany and in spite of a revolving door policy which has seen band members coming and going for parental leave over the last few years, they have built a consistent body of work that has improved with each release. The creative duo of Sylvia Swiatkowska and Magdalena Sobczak, playing violin and dulcimer respectively, are at the core of this incarnation of the WVB. Their vocal harmonies are as tight as those of the Bulgarian Women's Choirs, although with an endearing hint of schoolyard sing-song lilt. The WVB violinists - with Sylvia playing an old Polish violin that resembles an Indian sarangi - give the music a drama and forward momentum, a real edginess at times. For "NORD", the WVB are joined by Swedish cult folkies Hedningarna, who bring along their bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy for extra atmospherics. Double bass and frame drums complete the line-up, at times providing trance / dance qualities to the music. In the past, their sounds have lent themselves beautifully to dub reggae remix versions, and the dub production sensibilities are plain to hear on "NORD". The mission with this CD was to chart the common ground between the Slavs, the Scandinavians and the aboriginal peoples of the Arctic, the Saami and Innuit cultures to which the WVB feel so connected. Echoes of these traditions are woven into these songs of the new urban Polish peasantry. The songs on "NORD" have been given such old style names such as "Whoa Bullocks Whoa", "Musicians are A-Playin' " and "You Sure Know What's What, Lass". The band are punky but, by and large, all highly trained, some from classical backgrounds. These are not mere "yokel's" - so it is with tongue firmly in cheek that the searing opening track, featuring the newly-added layer of wild eyebrow-singeing blasts of jazz trumpet, is called "Hey you, Yokel's son!" The stand out track for me is when Canadian musician Sandy Schofield joins them on vocal's and shaman's drum for "War is Coming". That is when it feels that the band have truly achieved what they set out to do, putting their fingers on the strong cultural bonds between the peoples of the North.

Monday 28 May 2012

Duotone "Ropes"

Duotone started as a vehicle for Barney Morse-Brown to escape the straight-jacket of his classical training. He has been playing cello since the age of six but grew tired of the constraints of the classical world. With this new CD "Ropes", I would defy anyone to find a box into which his music would neatly fit. Having been an integral part of The Imagined Village for a while, he has now collected together several years' worth of his own songs and tunes. He has somehow combined his classical, baroque, folk and improv experience to create a very English music that satisfies on so many levels. There are instrumental interludes throughout that resemble the soundtrack to a somewhat intense movie. These give way to alternately gentle and soaring vocal harmonies and in turn to further interludes where Morse-Brown really lets rip and attacks the cello with complete abandon. There is a wistful and poetic philosophy in the words that is quite affirming. Themes of time passing and impermanence are repeatedly touched upon, but the overall feel on this release is one of optimism. He now works in tandem with James Garrett, classical guitarist turned percussionist extraordinaire, resulting in a more rounded, fuller sound than on the first Duotone Cd. It feels as if Garrett has brought a certain amount of lightness to what is now a duo. On his self-penned song "Set It Down" - one of my favourites - he sings "Put the mallet down on the bench, and come and have a cup of tea". He also brings a more uptempo, beat-oriented approach. Garrett's cajon and mini drum set really drive the show along. On "Ropes" the two are using live analogue loops to create layers of sounds - multiple tracks of cellos, guitars, voices and percussion are able to be brought in and out of the mix. No laptops, no computers, no pre-recorded music - this is all done live, and with a huge sense of fun. The pair dress (and sport facial hair) like something out of "Deadwood" - a carry-over from Morse-Brown's classical days, when it was second nature for him to get into a smartly starched costume for a performance. For the two stand-out tracks on the album, "Powder House" and "Turning Pages Over", the sublimely beautiful harmonies of their own voices are enhanced by the heavenly vocals of one Raevennan Husbandes. The"Quintone Strings" and the "DuotoneChoir" also feature to great effect throughout. Truly an inspirational and refreshing addition to the English music scene. Duotone have a youtube channel with a preview of "Ropes"

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Ani diFranco - "Which Side Are You On?"

Finding love, having a kid and moving to New Orleans have all had a profoundly positive effect on Ani diFranco's poetry and music. As she sings in "If Yr Not" on her new release, if you're not getting happier as you get older then something is badly wrong. On the majority of the songs on this album, there is an unhurried artiste who is confidently at the top of her game - sparse arrangements that, with their quiet poetry, shed some light on the human condition. As always, diFranco's playing of her many accoustic and electric guitars, with their weird and wonderful tunings, is nothing short of virtuosic. Politically diFranco has, throughout her entire career, been actively promoting the Occupy values. Well before anyone actually Occupied Tahrir Square, Wall St or any of the other Main Streets anywhere else, she was penning scathing attacks on the military industrial patriarchy in the USA such as "To The Teeth" and "Self Evident". She touches here on being homeless (the lifeboat in "Lifeboat" being a park bench), using aircons and heaters less ("Splinter"), buying local and buying less ("J"), demanding less packaging ("Zoo"), and on an "Amendment" to enshrine hard-won women's rights. She calls for overthrowing the oil tycoons with whale harpoons for there being "no fish in the water, no birds in the sky, no life in the soil and no end to the lie". Her feminist re-working of the old Pete Seeger anthem "Which Side Are You On?" is a raucous rallying cry to all progressive people in the USA to get out and vote later this year. We start with some simple banjo picking by 90 year old Seeger himself and end with the beautifully dirty sounds of New Orleans brass and a marching anthem for the times. "...the curse of Reaganomics has finally taken its toll. Lord knows the free market is anything but free. It costs dearly to the planet and the likes of you and me." But this time around it is the tenderness of the love songs that is most striking. It sounds like she now has a life partner who has taught her to "Unworry" (and whom she has taught to "unhide"). On the sublimely beautiful "Albacore" she talks of having "just tattooed a wedding band on what looks to me like my mother's hand" and she sees "a honeymoon in the albacore sky". In "Hearse" she talks of "following you into the next life like a dog chasing a hearse" and in "Mariachi", she and her lover form a perfect two-person mariachi band. "Let's get this party started" she sings, "let's squeeze the lime. The mariachi life is really more than fine" And she's right. It is.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Bruce Springsteen "Wrecking Ball"

Of late, the spin merchants employed by the Republican Party in the USA have been in panic mode. Due to the Occupy Movement changing the National Conversation, the air has all but gone from the Tea Party's sails and hardly anyone in their Party has cottoned onto the fact. At least three "elderly" American musos have been paying attention. Late last year.Ry Cooder and Tom Waits both brought out brilliant CD's bursting with righteous anger. This month it is Bruce Springsteen's turn. Back in the Seventies, after the seminal "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" and the breathless, breakthrough "Born To Run", Springsteen allowed the punk phenomenon to inform his brooding classic "Darkness on the Edge of Town". But, to my ear, that was the last time he released a studio album without a single duff track. The opening song on his new CD has an ironic delivery that is very reminiscent of "Born in the USA" - decrying the way people have been left hanging post-Katrina and post-GFC. "We take care of our own, wherever this flag is flown" is as critical of uncaring governments as "Born in the USA" was critical of the way war veterans are habitually hung out to dry on their return home. And it's just as likely to be misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem as it's predecessor. By the time we get through "Easy Money" ( where robbery feels like the only way out of poverty ) and "Shackled and Drawn" (where we are all shackled while the party is in full swing on Banker's Hill), the central character of "Jack of all Trades" is ready to take a gun to the bankers responsible for a repossession. "Death to my Hometown", "This Depression" and "Wrecking Ball" all keep up in the same vein - decrying the lack of compassion in modern day America. Throughout this lyrical journey, Springsteen has become much more musically adventurous with his careful cherry-picking of so many genres - from rap (a beautiful vignette by Michelle Moore on "Rocky Ground") to full-blown Gospel choirs to Irish Punk-Folk a la Pogues, he has finally managed to fuse together the two previously diverse strands of his most recent musical ventures. The stadium rock of the E Street band has now had the riotous but virtuosic folk of the Seeger Sessions Band grafted onto it, and sounds so much better for it. "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "American Land" are two rabble-rousers - old live Springsteen songs that have never found a place on a studio album before. Here they finish off the set, sublimely bookending "We are Alive" (itself surely inspired by Bruce losing so many of his friends and colleagues in recent years) and one of his most experimental songs ever - "Swallowed Up (in the Belly of the Whale)". Springsteen saves up one of the most poignant, searing saxophone solos ever recorded by his dear departed friend Clarence Clemons to round off his best release in decades. If you are interested in the vision behind "Wrecking Ball", you can check out Springsteen's keynote speech to the SXSW Conference in Texas on NPR's website.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Baloji - Kinshasa Succursale

Baloji is a young Congolese Belgian poet / rapper / singer whose name translates as "Sorcerer". Born in Lumumbashi in the DRC in 1978, he was taken from his mother and raised by his step-family in Oostende as a three year old. After some unruly teenage years, he found himself a member of the successful chart band "Starflam" before going solo with a sketchy album called "Hotel Impala". His new release, "Kinshasa Succursale" has followed, under the auspices of avant-garde Brussels label Crammed Discs. It is a reworking of the half-baked debut, turning it into a gem of an album, a newly polished mirror that Baloji holds up to the beauties and horrors of his homeland. With a sound engineer and bass player in tow, he revisited Kinshasa to hang with some of the greats - Konono #1, Zaiko Langa Langa and Royce Mbumba - and has ended up creating a document that portrays a nation riddled with poverty and lacking in basic infrastructures but with more resources than the USA and Europe combined. The opening track has a beautiful retro feel, itself a reworking of the old Grand Kalle rhumba "Independence Cha-Cha". After this sumptuous laid back start, the craziness of Kinshasa's Konono #1 kicks in - thumb pianos distorted through amplification fashioned from old car alternators, whistles, balafons and bits of metal being hit - and all tied together with Baloji's strident French beat poetry critique of things Congolese. There's a variety of styles here - with township jive, Cameroonian style choral pieces - even a hint of R'n'B and Dancehall here and there, but it is always underlaid with Balji's urban angst and the insistent distorted guitars and likembes of modern day Kinshasa. "Kinshasa Succursale" started life as a response to a long-lost birth mother who posed the question "what have you been up to these last 25 years?" It has become so much more. This Sorcerer has used his incisive texts, and - with the backing of beating drums, chants and lamentations - interwoven these into modern dancehall idioms and classic rhumbas. It's given us a deceptively festive music that actually paints a less than pretty picture of what the DRC has been up to these last 25 years. Thankfully, though it is all infused with Baloji's very appealing optimism for the future.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Lucas Santtana "Sem Nostalgia"

Lucas Santtana is someone who first toured internationally in the nineties with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Back home in Bahia, Brazil he took inspiration from his former mentors and honed his own unique brand of Tropicalia to perfection. This is his fourth CD but the first to make considerable - and very deserved -  waves outside Brazil.

For this project Santtana set himself some constraints. He resolved, in tribute to the likes of Gil and Joao Gilberto, to use only "Voz e Viola" (Voice & Guitar). But in the true spirit of operating "Sem (Without) Nostalgia" he has given the concept a thorough 21st century makeover by processing ambient sounds through all manner of unconventional recording techniques to create the most remarkable soundscapes.

"Filmic" is a description that springs readily to mind for several of the songs - he sings half in Portuguese and half in English - and it comes as no surprise to read an interview with Santtana in which he talks of creating each song as a miniature movie. It is music as if heard in a dream, never more so than on "Recado pro Pio Lobato" with jangling bells, distant guitar chords and somewhat unsettling echoey vocals.

The bizarre and discordant can often be a turn-off, but on "Sem Nostalgia", Santtana makes sure he takes us along with him. The jarring electronic touches are cleverly counter-balanced with the slow harmonious acoustic gems such as "Night Time In The Backyard" and "Hold me In". And then the dream-like Bossa Nova kicks off again on "Amor em Jacuma". There are echoes of John Lennon, Radiohead and Tunng throughout the album, particularly on the insistent "I Can't Live far From My Music", before we once again chill in the hammock under the palm fronds with "Ca Pra Nos".

Another light-hearted techno mash-up of sampled guitars and beats on "O Violao de Mario Bros" is followed by the ever so gentle "Ripple of the Water" and we finish up with "Natureza #1 em Mi Maior", discovering the most beautiful music in the processed sounds of water, frogs, birds, cicadas and the pulsating tropical night air.

The track I keep coming back to on the Local Global Show is the Cd's opener, "Super Violao Mashup". This doesn't even feature Santtana's own guitar, rather samples of his heroes' riffs with loops and beats interspersed to great effect. Check out the youtube video for this one, in which he playfully "referees" a very competitive Dance-Off between a man and a woman on a seafront promenade in Rio. Chunky moves guaranteed.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Anoushka Shankar and Various Artists - Traveller

 As Nitin Sawhney points out in the CD's sleeve notes No one embodies the spirit of innovation and experimentation more evidently than Anoushka Shankar.”

She was born in London and raised there, in New Delhi and California. She studied classical sitar with her father, the legendary Ravi Shankar, from the age of 9. Her concert debut was in the Siri Fort, New Delhi in 1995, aged 13. By 15 she had performed with her father at Carnegie Hall and her first record deal was at 16.

Since then she has continued to accompany Ravi, and has also pursued a highly successful solo career playing classical Hindustani music. In 2001, 2003 and 2007 respectively, she released "Live at Carnegie Hall", "Rise" and "Breathing Under Water", collaborating and experimenting with musicians and producers far and wide and gaining three Grammy nominations along the way.

Now signed to Deutche Grammophon, with this new CD "Traveller", Shankar heads off into "Latcho Drom" territory. Like the Tony Gatlif film, this project explores the connections between the Gypsies of Spain and Rajasthan and their seemingly conjoined Flamenco and Indian musical roots There is an assured maturity evident in this release - a confidence, possibly borne of Anoushka now being a parent herself. She fully immerses herself in the shared DNA of the two traditions.

The sparkling chemistry between Shankar and Javier Limon shines throughout.  He is co-writer and guitarist on several tracks and is the inspired arranger and producer of the cd as a whole. Limon says that this encounter with Shankar changed his life, giving him a different concept of his own music. He points out that when Anoushka plays a granaina she plays it like a flamenco singer, not as one might expect, like a flamenco guitarist. Her melodies on the sitar exquisitely replicate those of the voices.

Limon has brought along his compadres Pepe (Habichuela, guitarist extraordinaire),pianist Pedro, plaintive Gypsy singers Duquende and Sandra Carrusco, and Spanish percussionists Pirana, Bobote and El Electrico playing (ahem) "spanish percussion" (cajon, handclaps etc). There is even, on "Dancing In Madness", the frenetic miked-up feet of Limon's friend, Flamenco dancer Farruco to mirror the ankle bells of Bharata Natyam dancer Mythili Prakash. It can be argued that it is in Flamenco and Hindustani traditions that the powerful rhythmic connections between dancer and musician are most evident.

For Anoushka herself, the writing and recording of "Traveller" was also a journey of self-discovery, never more so than when she is playing her sitar accompanied by just Pepe on guitar. The pair playfully nurture "Boy Meets Girl" into existence. It is a spacious creation of simple acoustic beauty, where the granaina and the raga seamlessly interweave and become one, a revelation for musicians and listeners alike. The title track is also a gem, with such fabulous rhythmic interplay between tabla, cajon and sitar overlaid with the Shehnai, the snake-charmer's double reeded conical oboe that is so reminiscent of the subcontinent.

This is a release of such sustained brilliance that it would be churlish to pick out one track. But it would be remiss of me not to mention the glorious heights reached on "Casi Uno".  This is the result of Limon introducing Shankar to his friend and protege, the extraordinarily gifted Equatorial Guinean Flamenco singer Concha Buika. The three of them simply sat around a table and went through the song a couple of times before capturing one of "those" emotionally loaded moments of pure musical magic: the richness and complexity of Shankar's sitar, the simple sweetness of Limon's guitar, the earthenware Indian percussion and Buika's extraordinarily tender voice all in total harmony. I defy you to listen to it and not shed a tear.

(This YouTube video gives a great insight into the creative process that resulted in "Traveller")