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Los Munequitos de Matanzas

Like other Cuban musicians such as Lazaro Ros and Orlando “Puntilla” Rios–who have both performed in Chicago within the past year–Los Munequitos de Matanzas are masters of roots rumba. This hauntingly beautiful music wraps a paper-thin Spanish veneer over a visceral and intellectual feast of polyrhythmic percussion, Yoruba chanting, and dance, all derived directly from […]

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King Sunny Ade & His African Beats

Nigeria’s King Sunny Ade still owes his fairly abundant U.S. name recognition to a brief (1983-’85) tenure on Island Records that coincided with the beginning of American attention to all the unrelated “exotic” non-Western musical styles that have been lumped together for middle-class North American consumers under the loathsome marketing tag “world music.” In a […]

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G. Love & Special Sauce

“I’m your garbage man,” mumbles G. Love, demonstrating how he has managed to broaden his curious mush-mouthed delivery into an original and effective rap-influenced sprechgesang–all of which serves to underline the old saw that often it’s not what you mumble, but how you mumble it. Meanwhile the Special Sauce rhythm section follows him up with […]

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Jeff Buckley

Listening to Jeff Buckley’s mannered, anguished singing is like watching a high-wire act; you keep waiting for him to hyperventilate and fall into an abyss of melodrama, but the catastrophe never happens. Buckley often achieves an intimate, wistful vocal delivery recalling romantic European balladeers like Edith Piaf and Luciano Tajoli; his appropriations of the French […]

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Mikis Theodorakis

Best known in America for his movie scores (Zorba the Greek, Z), Mikis Theodorakis’s rep back home rests as much on his political activities as on his music. Tortured and imprisoned (1967), then exiled (1970) for resistance to the 1967-’74 military junta, he later served in parliament and as a cabinet minister in the Greek […]

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Sweetness and Bite

SHONEN KNIFE METRO, APRIL 29 “Let’s see–is it that they’re good because they suck?” So said a friend when I mentioned how much I liked the band Shonen Knife, the Japanese trio who recently topped the U.S. college charts with their new album, Rock Animals. But it seems that for every person who welcomes the […]

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Oscar Chavez

Oscar Chavez’s 30-plus-year career, during which he’s released more than 70 recordings, has made his name something of a household word in Mexico; he’s known for both his interpretations of traditional songs and his own compositions, many of which feature satirical political comment. I’ve heard this guy described more than once as a sort of […]

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American Poet

JOHNNY CASH AMERICAN RECORDINGS (AMERICAN RECORDINGS) Over his 39-year recording career Johnny Cash’s public image has gradually taken on a larger-than-life gravity, a quality more substantial than what usually results from mindless media exaltation of contemporary celebrities. His poetic songcraft, along with the bedrock strength and humility conveyed in the sheer artless weight of his […]

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Four Stars

Paris is where the most ambitious Francophone African musicians go to try for international stardom, and it’s also where singers Nyboma Mwan Dido and Wuta Mayi, guitarist Syran Mbenza, and bassist Bopol Mansiamina all met in 1983 and teamed up as Les Quatres Etoiles (the Four Stars). All are outstanding Zairean soukous musicians who–after apprenticing […]

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Shonen Knife

It may well be that here in the West, we’ve all grown so resigned to living in a decadent society that we’ve just gone numb. But hopefully we still retain a vestigial third ear that enables us to hear the sounds of genuine, unalloyed joy—sounds we’re no longer so good at producing ourselves, but that […]

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Dan Boadi & Ghanatta

Highlife is one of the classic 20th-century West African pop music genres, a style sometimes hard to define precisely since it encompasses such diversity. Originally a 1920s blend of homegrown rural rhythms and Western colonial military music sprinkled with miscellaneous Caribbean and ballroom jazz influences, highlife gradually evolved to become the dominant dance music of […]

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Salif Keita

The slick flavor of Malian singer Salif Keita’s last few albums on the Mango label has reflected his own desire to make his music more accessible to Western audiences (it was Keita and not some label honcho who, after listening to some Weather Report records, chose Joe Zawinul as producer-arranger for the 1991 Amen). Ever […]

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Ethnic City: a celebration of Mexican culture

“We’re just dealing with the basic, simple truth,” says Encarnacion Teruel. “But it’s radical because this country’s history is based on myth, starting with Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of people who had already had civilization for three thousand years.” Teruel, currently based at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Pilsen, is discussing “Del Corazon,” a series […]

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Tlen-Huicani

The state of Veracruz, on Mexico’s swampy gulf coast, was for hundreds of years the prime port of entry for gold-seeking Spaniards who hacked their way through the lowlands while littering the land not only with blood but also with such little pieces of their musical culture as guitars, two-stringed violins, and harps, all of […]