BBC Awards and Gypsy music at Barbican

25. 6. 2007 | Rubriky: Články,Interviews, reviews,Multilingual

BBC World Music Awards
The 1000 year Journey
London, May-June 2007

The Barbican centre, well known for its flexible and multi genre programming, hosted this year’s BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music ceremony. The nearly 5 hour long show with 2 intervals was opened by the winner in Asia Pacific category, the Indian classical musician Debashish Bhattacharya, switching between 3 different instruments, all based on the lap steel guitar.

Unfortunately, three of the total of 10 winners didn’t appear on the bill. Gogol Bordello (Americas category) rejected the invitation due to other commitments, the French singer Camille (Europe) and Somalian rapper K’Naan (Newcomer) sent a last-minute cancellation. Consequently, the Paris-Argentinian Gotan Project (Club Global) played a long set, the three core members being augmented by additional performers, including a female singer, and a string section, all dressed in white, which effectively contrasted with the dark and fatal machine-like electronango grooves. This year “shaker of the year” award was given to Yusuf Mahmoud, the artistic director of Sauti za Busara Festival in Zanzibar, and the Danish-born but Zanzibar-bred organizer and educator Hildegard Kiel, for their joint effort to revitalize the Swahili taarab orchestra tradition.

Middle East/North Africa category was won by Lebanese Ghada Shbeir. Coming from Christian Maronite background, she explores the thousand year old Arabo-Andalusian tradition as well as even older Byzantine and Syriac chants. She is a musicologist by her second profession, her repertoire is well researched and her band features the remarkable Charbel Rouhana, well known for his innovative oud playing.

The climax of the show was provided by the two oldest award recipients, who despite their age were not short of vitality neither drive. The Algerian born pianist Maurice el Médioni performed a wide array of styles, from boogie woogie to rumba and flamenco, always with a piquant Maghrebi flavour, as documented on his Descarga Oriental CD, recorded with the Cuban percussionist Roberto Rodriguez. After his last number, surprise surprise, Robert Plant entered the stage, to present the last award of the evening to Mahmoud Ahmed, the veteran master of Ethiopean ballads. His soulful voice with a hard driving horn section reminded of Otis Redding, but the typically pentatonic Ethiopian melodies drew from completely different musical culture.

Two days later in the same venue, The 1000 year Journey opened. The 3 week Gypsy series of concerts and films was started by Kolpakov Trio, led by the former director of the Romen Gypsy Theater in Moscow, and featuring his long-time admirer, the punk-Ukraininan bad boy Eugene Hütz from New York’s Gogol Bordello. Fanfare Ciocarlia fused driving brass section with some well known guest artists, like singers Mitsou from Hungary and Esma Redjepova from Macedonia – and the revue-like concept successfully tested on their latest CD Kings and Queens worked as well on stage. Taraf de Haidouks introduced their new repertory from the Maskarada CD to be released in late June. The band’s Belgian producer Stéphane Karo took the folk-inspired pieces by Bartok, Khachaturian and others and re-gypsized them back into the village-band format. The Barbican programme introduced also some inspiring non-gypsy artists, as the Sarajevo singer Amira, with repertory of passionate sevdalinka ballads and surprisingly delicate Macedonian tunes. On her current tour, she is accompanied by the British piano and accordion player Kim Burton, well known from the seminal British world music band 3 Mustaphas 3.


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