Various ‘Songlines Music Awards 2010’ (Proper) 4/5

As the title indicates, this is a selection of some of the world roots artists in contention for the prestigious Sonlgines Awards for 2010 and a well rounded overview of the scene it is too. West Africa is well represented by two of 2009’s best albums, the ngoni magic of Bassekou Kouyate on ‘I speak Fula’ and the wonderful Oumous Sangare on ‘Seya’. Both are indispensable parts of any African music collection. Less well known are the Kinshasa-based street musicians from the Congo, Staff Benda Bilili and their contribution in ‘Moziki’. This is simply terrific dance music and quite a departure from the smoother Congolese rumba we are used to with a rougher edge here, though the classic harmonies associated with the former are still very much in evidence. Touareg influences are manifest in ‘Tahult in’ from Tinariwen who have taken the world roots music scene by storm in the last couple of years. In a different light altogether is Cape Verdean singer Lura, resident in Lisbon like many of her contemporaries, and in ‘Maria’ fusing lusophone African and even Brazilian influences. Increasingly important is the world fusion category and this year a few interesting acts have emerged. They include a Scandinavian-Portugese fusion in Stockholm Lisboa project with Swedish string instrumentation allied to the gorgeous fado singing of Liana and the two elements come together wonderfully on ‘Corpo aceso’. American and African continents combine musically on a decidely Latinesque vamp for ‘Banjul girl’ which is a collaboration between long-time producer and musician Justin Adams and Malian Juldeh Camara. A mixture of Ethiopian and dub is found in ‘I love in Harar’ by Invisible System. One wonders whether either Dub Colossus or the amazing Tommy T. might have made a better choice here. Europe is represented by a number of one-off artists such as the celtic hues of Edinburgh-based group Shooglenifty on ‘The vague rant’ while a non-fado entry from Portgual comes in the form of folk group Deolinda and ‘Movimento perpétuo associativo’ with a hint of irony in the lyrics. Further afield north west China is one of the least known areas of music, yet in the reflective ethnic Kazaka singer Mamer and his song, ‘Mountain wind’, an artist truly deserving of wider recognition has been unearthed and is definitely one of the discoveries on the compilation. The Indian subcontinent is represented by an intriguing combination of the impassioned vocals of Pakistani Qawwali singer Faiz Ali Faiz and Middle Eastern string master Titi Robin that works extremely well. Overall another fascinating year of new sounds and there will be some difficult decisions in the final choices made. All good news for the world roots listener.

Tim Stenhouse