Today the people of Egypt are marching in solidarity against the foul authoritarian rule of the US-backed Mubarak regime.
This is the 8th day of protests and is being dubbed, the March of Millions, as immense numbers of Egyptians stream into Cairo to present their strength to the military and to the world.
Inspired by these events I have chosen to highlight the Egyptian-Sudanese band, Rango. The band plays a spiritual music called Zar, first introduced into Egypt in the 1820’s by Sudanese slaves.
Egyptian Zar is a music of healing born of hardship and struggle. As protesters take to the streets of Cairo it’s important to remember the rich revolutionary history of the region. To recall that the pyramids where built by slaves and Zar was sung by slaves, but that these people liberated themselves from pharaohs and crooked nationalists . Today the people of Egypt, who once stood in the shadow of dictators, are now in power and have the opportunity to shape their future.
Telek comes from the village of Raluana, near Rabaul in the Papua New Guinean island province of East New Britain, where he continues to live with his wife Bridget and their seven children, despite the volcano which destroyed the idyllic Pacific town in 1994. “The traditional songs are about our daily life, songs that the people sing when they pick the bananas or collect the coconuts or go fishing,” he says. The towns and villages have now been rebuilt and because the Tolai people represent a living tradition, the volcano too has now entered their songs.
Telek’s songs and his haunting voice, traverse many musical styles perfectly capturing the spirit of the proud cultural heritage of the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea.
Bernard Kabanda Sslongo was discovered in the streets of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, playing on a guitar he had made himself out of scrap. He was content to play solo, or with simple tin-can percussion as he played in pubs in Kampala.
Bernard Kabanda is king of the “kadongo kamu” a style which first flourished in Uganda during Idi Amin’s rule in the Seventies. Kadongo kamu is an urban style that draws inspiration from country and western music and is laced with humor and topical content.
Sadly just as Bernard Kabanda realized his fame in the world music circuit he died of AIDS. He was 40 years old.
Hanggai is a folk music group from Beijing who use their music as a tool to strengthen Mongolian culture in China. The term “Hanggai” itself is a Mongolian word referring to an idealized natural landscape of sprawling grasslands, mountains, rivers, trees, and blue skies.
Hanggai is creating a medium through which it is effectively able to express the voice of a generation yearning to reconnect with its ethnic roots in the face of a dominating mainstream culture.
Hanggai Band seems to at times defy categorization often falling under the genre of “World Music” and even warranting the creation of their own unique genre: “China Grass”.
Although Tinariwen originates in Mali it was in Libya that they found their cultural identity and formed the complete collective.
In 1980, the Libyan ruler Muammar al Gaddafi put out a decree inviting all young Tuareg men to receive military training and citizenship. The early members of the band answered the call and over nine years met fellow Tuareg musicians and invited them to join Tinariwen.
Their sound is primarily guitar driven in the style known as assouf among Tuareg people.
Luisa Maita has been skirting the fringes of international stardom the past few weeks so I wanted to get to this once hidden treasure before her inevitable fame.
Luisa Maita comes from the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, a bustling urban city that inspired the songs on her debut album, Lero Lero. Raised in a working class neighborhood consisting mainly of Italian and Arab immigrants (She is of European, Jewish, and Syrian Muslim heritage) Luisa found the people around her filled with great personality and musical ability.
When asked about her album Luisa said, “Its inspiration comes from the urban life of São Paulo, its ghettos and its people…The lyrics and the aura of the album focus on the peculiarities of Brazilian daily life, culture and human condition.”
Ramata Diakite was born in the landlocked West African country of Mali. Regarded as one of the most talented singers from the Wassulu region, Ramata’s music made it international when she went on tour with Taj Mahal in 1999.
Ramata’s style is a flirtation between Wassulu traditional music and Blues. She marked a generation by her boldness to sing about the challenges facing African women as well as being a strong ambassador for her culture.
“A soulful, standout singer in a nation of standout singers, Ramata is now poised to share her path-breaking music with a worldwide audience. – Excerpted from Banning Eyre’s write-up of Ramata on Afropop.org