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Looking For A New England 2

The Other Traditions

Looking For A New England 2 cover
Following 2009’s state-of-the-art new English folk CD, this one (free with fRoots Nov/Dec 2010 and again courtesy of Arts Council England) spotlights some of the exceptional musicians from other traditions now resident here and enriching our culture. Compiled by Ian Anderson, the sleeve notes here are by Jamie Renton.

The Musicians | Track list | Download these notes as a PDF
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England is a multicultural musical hub and always has been. How could it not be? Wave upon wave of refugees and emigrés have made England their home since… well since forever. And they’ve always brought their music with them – along with their food, language and culture – which has mixed with what was already here. Add in the stuff English travellers bring back from foreign parts (Moorish dancing anyone?) and you’ve got the mother of all melting pots.

Right now it’s easier to soak up English multicultural music than ever before, with festivals, concert halls, bars and community centres all buzzing to the beats and melodies that nestle on our doorstep. There will always be those who prefer their global music to come from somewhere else (regardless of how good the local talent is) but many are starting to wake up to the appeal of that which has been staring them in the face for decades. There are no air miles, and no exhausting (and increasingly fruitless) battles with the authorities over visas either, when the world music artist you’re after lives just down the road.

The diversity of what’s resident here is actually staggering. From badass bash-yer-brains-out Punjabi drum troupes to delicate combinations of stringed and wind instruments, with music played by and to particular communities, musical ambassadors spreading their culturally specific sounds out to the mainstream and those hardy souls with strong roots who collaborate beyond their own culture (fusion, schmoozian, this is a natural development, always has been – how do you think our tradition got all those polkas, waltzes and squeezeboxes?).

Of course this compilation isn’t a definitive record of all the cultural ingredients in the English musical soup, you’d need a box-set the size of a house for such a thing. Here you have a mix of what’s tickled the collective fRoots ear and a panel of expert advisors. It’s a tribute to quite how much good stuff there is out there that London’s pioneering Cultural Co-operation recently released a double CD compilation along similar lines to L4ANE2 of an equally high quality and yet with only one artist in common.

The musicians

Chartwell Dutiro
Chartwell Dutiro, the founder and leader of Spirit Talk Mbira, is as masterly a plucker of the Zimbabwean mbira as you’re likely to get. Back home, he led the mbira section of the legendary Thomas Mapfumo’s Blacks Unlimited. Since moving to England in 1994, he’s divided his time between music teaching and developing STM into the rockin’ multicultural seven-piece trance machine it is today.
Matthaios Tsahouridis
Like Chartwell, Matthaios Tsahouridis plays a most singular stringed instrument, in his case the pontic lyra: a three-stringed violin that originates from the Pontos region of Turkey, but is associated with the Greeks who resided there until the early part of the last century. Matthaios was born into a musical family in Veria, Greece and came to London to study at Goldsmiths College, where he obtained a PhD in Ethnomusicology. He’s as happy to perform with symphony orchestras, as traditional musicians from Iran or Afghanistan. Ela Poulim is an original composition that features Matthaios on vocals, laghouto (Greek lute) and guitar, as well as pontic lyra. It’s a taster for his forthcoming album.
Mor Karbasi
The UK’s Jewish community is long established, but is mainly made up of Ashkenazis from eastern and central Europe, whereas the young Israeli singer Mor Karbasi performs the Ladino music of the Sephardic Jews of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Born in Jerusalem of Moroccan and Iranian parents, she moved to London a few years back and has established herself within the UK global music scene, with rapturously received performances at Womad and Celtic Connections. Still only 23, she sings with a combination of technical prowess and emotional intensity as can be heard on El Pastor.
Guo Yue
Master Chinese flautist and chef Guo Yue has been a UK resident for nearly three decades, a mainstay of Womad, initially with his sibling Guo Yi, as the Guo Brothers. He can play beautifully in a solo setting, as he does on the atmospheric Quiet Mountain, taken from his recent album Bai Yu (White Jade) which features the softer sounding white jade flute, rather than the bamboo variety with which he’s mainly associated. He’s also been involved with all kinds of cross-cultural collaborations, concert performances and film soundtracks, as well as giving demonstrations of Chinese cookery.
Khyam Allami
There’s a palpable buzz about the youthful Iraqi oud player Khyam Allami: he recently became the first recipient of the BBC Radio 3 World Routes Academy scholarship/ mentorship and performed at The Royal Albert Hall as part of this year’s Proms. Born in Syria, to Iraqi parents, he moved to London at a young age, initially taking up the violin, before dabbling in rock and then dipping back into his Middle Eastern roots by studying the oud (he’s got a degree in Ethnomusicology from London’s School of Oriental & African Studies). The Sound Of Disquiet shows off his virtuosity to fine effect.
The London Bulgarian Choir
Formed ten years ago by Bulgarian expat Dessislava Stefanova, The London Bulgarian Choir functions both as a performing ensemble and a community educational group. You don’t have to be a Bulgarian to join in (many of the members aren’t) and there’s a non-performing beginner’s group for those who want to learn the tricks of the Bulgarian vocal trade. Does this community aspect make the 40-strong main choir amateurish? Not a bit of it! Pilentse Pee shows the choir to be both steeped in tradition and unafraid of innovation.
The Krar Collective
The Krar Collective rock! An Ethiopian three-piece consisting of a singer, percussionist (playing the traditional kebero drum) and Temesgen Taraken, master of the six-stringed krar harp, they’ve burst out of London’s close-knit Ethiopian community and are starting to make waves on the wider scene with a very well received performance at this year’s Womad festival and recording sessions produced by noted UK roots groover and shaker Ben Mandelson, from which Wollo is taken. They may use ancient instruments, but there’s nothing arcane about the way that they play them. This is hot ‘n’ hypnotic dance music.
Cigdem Aslan
With deep cultural roots and a musically open mind, Cigdem Aslan typifies the new generation of UK-based multicultural musicians. Originally from Istanbul (where she sang with the University Music Club Band whilst a student), she came to London in 2003 and has broadened her range by studying with Dessi from the London Bulgarian Choir. Here she can be heard lending her beautiful, expressive voice to the sound of rebetiko, the blues of the Mediterranean, that plaintive but enduring music that unites the Turkish and Greek communities. At other times she can be found singing lead with The Dunav Balkan Group and the excellent She’Koyokh Klezmer Ensemble.
Kadialy Kouyate
Kadialy Kouyate shares Cigdem’s spirit of musical openness and even came to the UK at about the same time, but he’s from a very different tradition. A Mandinka griot (hereditary storyteller/ musician) from Casamance, south Senegal, he’s a young virtuoso of the 21-string West African kora harp, who’s immersed himself in the London scene (he might perform with a Caribbean steel pan player one night, a traditional West African group the next and a symphony orchestra the night after). On his debut album from last year he plays with an unusually light and jazzy cross-cultural ensemble.
The Dhol Foundation
The Dhol Foundation are a West London institution, founded in 1989 by master drummer Johnny Kalsi (who also plays with Imagined Village and Afro Celts). Like The London Bulgarian Choir they have an educational and a performing wing. Kalsi’s canny enough to realise that a whole album or concert of dhol (Punjabi drum) bashing would risk inducing boredom and a headache in the listener and so mixes in folk, experimental, reggae and electronic influences. Peace And Love is a rollicking slice of dancehall bhangra taken from the Foundation’s forthcoming third album; that’s Glen LaTouche from Edward II on vocals.
Andrew Cronshaw & Tigran Aleksanyan
Although they’re from quite different musical backgrounds, the collaboration between Andrew Cronshaw & Tigran Aleksanyan appears to flow naturally, perhaps because they share a love of the contemplative and wistful. Cronshaw’s a zither player/ multi-instrumentalist (and regular fRoots contributor) with a passion for and knowledge of all kinds of traditional music; Aleksanyan is a master of the Armenian duduk (a woodwind instrument with a double reed frequently described as the saddest instrument on earth) who studied under the great Djivan Gasparyan, before moving to London. They play live together whenever they can but, aside from a track on a previous fRoots covermount CD, this slice of fragile melancholic musical beauty is their first publicly available recording.
Grupo Lokito
The UK’s Congolese and Cuban communities are both well established, so why not combine the music of the two? That was the thinking of talented salsa pianist Sara McGuinness when she formed Grupo Lokito in 2006. Their dynamic live shows mix soukous with salsa and son to exhilaratingly swinging effect, much of which has been captured on their recently released debut album from which we have the title track.
The affable and extraordinarily gifted Malagasy guitarist Modeste really should be better known amongst the UK’s African music lovers and probably would be if he was based in Paris or Brussels or anywhere other than London. Modeste Hugues Randramahitasoa hails from Betroka in southern Madagascar and plays the unique gentle style of the region. Word is that there’s a new album on the way.
Adriano Adewale
Adriano Adewale has played percussion with a whole range of visiting Brazilian and local jazz artists since moving to the UK from São Paulo, Brazil a decade ago. He’s also performed with Modeste and features on Kadialy Kouyate’s album. No surprise then that Sementes, the 2008 debut album by his group, features a slew of Brazilian, African and jazz influences. Kadialy returns the favour by playing in his band, firebrand Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon produces and one of Adriano’s employers, guitarist Antonio Forcione, makes a guest appearance.
Baluji Shrivastav
With deep roots in the classical Hindustani musical tradition, the extraordinary blind sitarist/ multi-instrumentalist Baluji Shrivastav has travelled from his home village in northern India to France and on to the UK, playing solo, teaching and collaborating with Massive Attack, Andy Shepherd and a whole load more. His latest album, Goddess, is a musical celebration of female deities from different cultures; Journey To Sedna is based on an Inuit legend of the Goddess of the Deep Sea.

Track list

+ = source recording details.
* = booking contact and website info. Overseas tel: add +44 and delete first 0
  1. SPIRIT TALK MBIRA feat. Chartwell Dutiro Zunde
    + From the CD Dendere Ngoma [Music Nest] (own label). Distributed by CDBaby.
    * Joanne Peters: 07794 350415.
    + Exclusive preview from a forthcoming CD due winter 2010/2011, release details t.b.c.
    * Direct tel: 07765 498600.
  3. MOR KARBASI El Pastor
    + Exclusive preview from the forthcoming CD Daughter Of The Spring, release details t.b.c.
    * Edwin Zomer, email:
  4. GUO YUE Empty Mountain
    + From the CD White Jade (Squirky Music). Available in the UK from Amazon/ iTunes.
    * Direct tel: 020 8948 5805 or 07727 152454. Email:
  5. KHYAM ALLAMI w. Andrea Piccioni The Sound Of Disquiet
    + Part of an otherwise download-only two-track EP The Sound Of Disquiet. Available at
    * Direct email:
    + From the CD Alyana Galyana (London Bulgarian Choir). Direct from
    * Direct tel: 07950 656319.
    + Exclusive to this CD, produced by Ben Mandelson. Not otherwise available.
    * Sebastian Merrick, Kazum!: 07966 452557. Email:
  8. CIGDEM ASLAN To Prosfigaki (Little Refugee)
    + Exclusive to this CD. Not otherwise available.
    * Sebastian Merrick, Kazum!: 07966 452557. Email:
    + From the CD Londo [Wisdom] (own label). Direct from
    * Direct tel: 07946 262788 or 07716 078837.
  10. THE DHOL FOUNDATION feat. Glen Latouche Peace And Love
    + From the forthcoming CD Drum Struck (TDF Records Ltd). Distributed in the UK by Proper Music.
    * Alan Bearman Music: 020 7263 0425. or from the booking form on TDF website:
    + Exclusive preview from a forthcoming CD on Cloud Valley Music. Distributed by Proper Music, due 2011.
    * Direct tel: 020 8521 4649.
  12. GRUPO LOKITO Esengo Ya Ko Bina
    + From the CD Esengo Ya Ko Bina (Malecon Records). Available direct from
    * Sara McGuinness: 07932 949760.
  13. MODESTE Any Anao
    + From the CD Fomba/Living Our Destiny (Space Shop Records). Distributed in the UK by Stern’s.
    * Direct tel: 07949 361856.
    + From the CD Sementes (Segue). Distributed by Kudos Records.
    * Fiona Mason: 07957 571332.
  15. BALUJI SHRIVASTAV Journey To Sedna
    + From the CD Goddess (ARC Music). Distributed in the UK by Proper Music.
    * Direct tel: 020 7226 2094.

Ian Anderson thanks Lucy Duran, Ken Hunt, Ben Mandelson, Wallee McDonnell, Katerina Pavlakis, Rita Ray, DJ Ritu, Max Reinhardt and Jamie Renton for their help and advice in selecting the artists for this CD.

Download these notes as a PDF


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