Covering African, world & roots music

NOTE: New pages are now located at

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  Articles, Artists, Reviews (etc):
A random set of articles, comments, artist profiles & reviews (updated Jun 9/09)
Updated May 25/09:
Brief notes of interest.
  • Award Congratulations: Kiran Ahluwalia, Jayme Stone/Mansa Sissoko, Jane Bunnett (and Grupo Vocal Desandann). Updated: May 25/09
  • RIP: Tlahun Gessesse, 1940-2009. The great Ethiopian singer passed away on Easter. Apr. 21/09
  • For sale: The Big Bopper's used casket, and other notes from "The Day The Music Died"
  • Christmas music highlights and downloads
  • The "history" of world music. The birth of a sometimes-controversial term.
  • Kemer Yousef returns to Ethiopia (Nov-Dec, 2008). Ethiopian-born Toronto signer returns for the first time in 24 years to the country he once fled, and is greeted as a star. (Updated Dec. 9/08)
  • Andy Palacio dies, Jan. 2008
  • Handsome Ned: 1957-1987
  • Assorted Quotes

More to come

New: June 2/09

Some notes (and video) of appreciation of the great American guitarist, singer and producer written prior to his June 5th Massey Hall concert (with Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin & Patty Griffin).

New Apr. 11/09

The American banjo master has recently released a CD and documentary resulting from his trip to five African countries. He is now touring with a number of African musicians. This spring, he performed at a number of shows with a superb lineup of musicians: Toumani Diabaté (photo), D'Gary, Vusi Mahlasela and Anania Ngoglia. Click the link above for more information on the project, and an article about, and photos from one of those concerts, held in Nashville's historic and beautiful Ryman Auditorium.

Updated Jan. 21/09

A new page, collecting some news and background on music events, performers, recordings, etc. helping to push for social and political change, including:

  • Willie Nelson: "A Peaceful Solution" (Dec. 30/08)
  • Fojeba's take on Canada's 2008 political crisis (Dec. 7/08)
  • "Playing for Change": Peace through Music (Nov. 27/08)
  • Obama Songs: Celebrating the President in (world) music (Nov. 27/08)
  • "Let's Find a Way": A Toronto musical project to help children suffering from HIV (Nov. 22/08)


Dec. 10/08:

A new feature, noting  some interesting reading on music, including books, magazines, websites, and more.

The annual Oxford American Music Issue is out (early December). Great writing on Southern US music. Get it before it's sold out. And many articles from past issues are now in their Book of Great Music Writing.

Global Rhythm & No Depression magazines cease paper publication, and go virtual; Songlines offer to North American readers.


(updated Dec. 3/08)
MIRIAM MAKEBA & ODETTA: Two great voices for justice

Indeed, these were two incredibly powerful women whose voices for justice will always be remembered.

Odetta died on Dec 2, 2008; Miriam Makeba on Nov. 10. Click the link above for some comments on their passings. Includes some wonderful video links.

Dec. 20, 2007:
DOC POMUS: A new biography, and an appreciation of an amazing life

One of the greatest songwriters of popular music ("Save the Last Dance for Me", "Youngblood", "Suspicion" and many others), Doc lived out an amazing, and as the book's subtitle says, an unlikely life.

One of the best music books I've ever read, this should appeal to anyone interested in reading of fascinating and engrossing lives. The article here reviews the book, and captures a bit of the life of a man who, although "crippled" at a very young age, spent years singing blues in small black clubs around New York, to the pinnacle of the pop songwritng world. The great, and the definitely not-great surrounded him. What happened to his life after the age of the songwriter ended? Just as interesting....

Includes audio links, CD info and other references.

Dec. 27, 2006/Updated Nov. 2008

An appreciation of four musical originals. Three passed away in late 2006, and Ertegun's former Atlantic partner, Jerry Wexler died in Aug. 2008. Includes audio, photo and video links; Ruth Brown's long legal battle against Ertegun and Atlantic Records for the money she and other artists never received. Also, some stories behind James Brown's two most famous concerts -- and his Grand Ole Opry performance


Click for larger image
Dec. 27, 2006

The more than 60-year battle to recognize the creator of the most popular African song in history


Dec. 1, 2006

Does K'Naan's latest video send a new, disturbing message about violence?

Update: Jan. 4/07: Toronto Star article also questions K'Naan's message.

Nov. 2, 2006

The greatest writing on American southern music you'll find (IF you can find a copy). Includes a superb CD. The music issue of this quarterly magazine always sells out. Don't miss it. (The 2008 issue should be out in early December).

Inside: my appreciation of the 2006 issue & CD.

55 essays -- most from past Music Issues -- have now been collected in a new book, The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing. See a review here.

Oct. 18, 2006
CHUCK BERRY: The Brown Eyed Handsome Man

A tribute to the greatest rock & roller of them all: still motorvatin' on his 80th birthday.

Includes the most mangled Chuck Berry lyrics ever ("Goin' to the pearl hop / Lookin' at the middle der / Filled up the middle / He ain't comin' round the bend"...???).

Plus some fabulous video clips from the 50's, 60's 70's and 80's (and bonus video of Etta James and some amazing Howlin' Wolf video).

And, "Chuck & me": a (very) brief memoir.

July 8, 2006
SOLOMON BURKE: "What a Wonderful World": His Massey Hall

No photos of the show, but with The King of Rock and Soul phoning my wife from the stage of Massey Hall, you just know there has to be a story.

And what's with the rose?


  June 2, 2006

An appreciation of the British broadcaster and music figure, who announced this week that he will be leaving his wonderful radio show, "Sound of the World" because of health problems.

Charlie has been a huge influence on my musical awareness for more than 30 years.


Feb. 10, 2006
BLACK UMFOLOSI: A capella legends from Zimbabwe  
Live review from the Lula Lounge

Their first Toronto show in five years drew a sold-out crowd to the Lula, and caused a last-minute second show to be added two days later. No wonder.

Click here for my review of the show, and here for my photos.

Jan. 29, 2006
TARIG ABUBAKAR: "Respect for a Great African": A tribute night
The Cottage

On January 20, Tarig's friends, fans, fellow musicians and joined to remember and celebrate the life of one of the great figures in African-Canadian music.

This page contains the original announcement of the show, and some links. My photos of the night are here. (On right, Tarig's brother, Mutaz).

Nov. 28, 2005
BETTYE LaVETTE: "The Greatest Unknown Soul Singer in the World"
Lee's Palace

Bettye has one of the greatest voices in soul music. She draws—and earns—adjectives like “scorching”, and “searing”. Errol Nazareth on CBC’s Metro Morning used the phrase “frightening intensity” to describe her singing. I agree. After numerous listens to her new CD, and seeing her perform at Lee’s, I know she can scare you: scare you with her intensity, scare you with the visible and palatable pain in some songs, with power and exultation in others.

Click here for my review of her show, and here for some photos.


  Jan. 24/06:
SAM COOKE: Dream Boogie:

A new biography of "The greatest singer who ever lived"


WANDA JACKSON: "The Queen of Rockabilly Rocks Parkdale"
Oct. 14, 2005
Cadillac Lounge

For two October nights, The Queen of Rockabilly rocked The Cadillac Lounge in Parkdale. Click here for a report on her first night, some background on her, and why we should help get her into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

My photos of the show are here. NEW: My photos from her Sep. 2006 show.


BILLY JOE SHAVER: "A Life in Music"
Aug. 13, 2005
Harbourfront Centre

This website is dominated by African and other "world" music. However, remembering what Louis Armstrong supposedly said once ("It's all folk music, I never heard no horses sing it"), I figure it's all "world music". Never heard no aliens sing it.

I find it perfectly normal that my favourite singers include Baaba Maal, Salif Keita, Oliver Mtukudzi -- and Billy Joe Shaver. He's been a favourite of mine for years, and I consider him one of the greatest American songwriters, a superb poet, whose words have great strength because of his poetic skills -- and because his songs come from and reflect a truly amazing life.

Billy Joe made a rare Canadian appearance Aug. 13 at Harbourfront. As expected, it was one of my concert highlights of the year.

Click this link above for my appreciation of Billy Joe's music, and his life. Photos from his Harbourfront show are here.


Mar. 31, 2005
The Opera House

A review of the concert by Nigeria's King of Juju Music.