State of Bengal & Paban Das Baul, Stephan Micus, Rokia Traoré, Radio Tarifa, and Bob Marley & the Wailers
World in a box
Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Nov. 12, 2004
World music's painfully broad parameters still manage to open minds and hungry ears at every turn. One of the recent best is State of Bengal vs. Paban Das Baul Tani Tani (Real World). State of Bengal has worked with Massive Attack and Björk but here lends programming skills to the lustrous voice of Paban Das Baul, a Bangladeshi mystic. The beats and loops are fresh, but SOB wisely lets PDB's buttery vox take centerstage. On his 16th (!) release for world/jazz/classical stalwart ECM, Teutonic supra-instrumentalist Stephan Micus seeks "a world as one whole, rather than a puzzle of competing, often hostile parts." Perhaps his boldest work, Life sets a Japanese koan (riddle) to music. Famed for his mastery of global tools, here Micus uses Irish tin whistle, Ethiopian harp, Bavarian zither, and Burmese gongs to paint a masterpiece, also blending 17 vocal tracks on "Narration Four." Like mountain streams forming a river, it's graceful and powerful. Rokia Traoré's Bowmboï (Nonesuch) is further evidence of an international star. Like her countrywoman Oumou Sangare, Traoré uses her pipes and poetry to discuss social issues while interlocking rhythms provide a hip workout. The Malian singer's third album was a hit in Europe, and a no-brainer for Nonesuch to release in the U.S. It doesn't hurt that two cuts feature the Kronos Quartet. Radio Tarifa's Fiebre (World Circuit/Nonesuch) is a fitting 10-year anniversary disc from these Spanish modal mavens. Recorded live in Toronto, Fiebre finds the ensemble in fine form, injecting even more life into their coastal bridging songs of the Mediterranean. Onstage heat envelops a plethora of flamenco melodies and Moroccan rhythms, a place where oud and electric bass warmly embrace. Bob Marley & the Wailers' Burnin' Deluxe Edition (Tuff Gong/Island): unreleased tracks, check. Deluxe packaging, check. Alternative versions, check. An unreleased, 1973 concert from Leeds? Double check! One of the archetypal reggae albums, it'd take a lot of flame to make the Burnin' re-release worthwhile. The unreleased tracks "Reincarnated Souls," "No Sympathy," and "The Oppressed Song" are praiseworthy, but no reissue needs three similar versions of the same song, even "Get Up, Stand Up." Still, it's hard to argue with the live disc, a last gasp of the original Wailers before a surfeit of talent sent Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh out on their own. Bunny's keyboards and telltale falsetto are prominent, and it's marvelous to hear Marley sing backup for Tosh. The performance is a bit shaky, which is no doubt why this show wasn't released by itself. All together, though, deluxe it remains.