Friday, November 9, 2012

In review--Lo'Jo Returns

Cinéma el Mundo
World Village

It takes a global village to make a Lo’Jo album, but then Lo’Jo, hailing from Angers, France, feels more like a collective of nomadic musicians, than a structured sextet.  After a hiatus from North America, the French band has returned with the eclectic Cinéma el Mundo (Cinema of the World) that harks back to Lo’Jo’s Mojo Radio of the late 1990s, but minus rousing songs such as Mojo Radio and Sin Acabar.  The new album possesses a more contemplative sound and like the cinema in its title, conjures floating images.

I have yet to come across a world music act that fuses whirling circus music with traditional instruments from Africa, Asia, and Europe in the manner of Lo’Jo--“original” doesn’t come close to describing this band’s music.  I imagine any music journalist new to the scene will choke on adjectives trying to describe this band that defies any labels.  Then with each album, the musicians delve deeper into the “Lo’Jo effect” (phrase coined by me).

Alger features swirling waltz-like piano and Richard Bourreau’s gypsy violin with Denis Péan’s gruff vocals punctuating the song. El Cabo also flows to a slower tempo with a waltz-like feeling, but this time the vocalist sisters, Nadia and Yamina Nid El Mourid chip in their luxurious harmonies.  Perhaps, it is my imagination but Lo’Jo stays with a 3/4 time signature for the bulk of the recording, which creates a dreamy atmosphere that at times feels like underwater music or that I have stepped into an alternate universe.

Oh, we’re not through with the delightful surprises yet.  On Cométe Algébrique, Péan and his bandmates bring the world to us, but melding European strings with a Chinese traditional erhu played by Guo Gan and darn, if I don’t feel like I’m watching Chinese classic cinema.  The following track, Vientiane also features the Chinese effect, but with western-style vocals--comes off as exquisite.  I’m not going to describe the remainder of tracks, but I will say, Cultural Creatives, this album was made for you.  Anyone who has accumulated the global miles Lo’Jo has would also sound like a global village.  This French band has the world pulse at its fingertips along with a rainbow bridge of humanity.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Practice--Moving on, evolving upwards

photo by Patricia Herlevi, Angels in the Sky
A strange idea came up for this post.  I feel that since many people are going through divorce, separation or breakups, I'll blog on healing music for these circumstances.  And of course, you would listen to different types of music during the various stages of your soul's evolution after a breakup or divorce.  I'm including music that is familiar to most people, mainly popular types of music such as rock, jazz, show tunes, and bluegrass.

Let's start with the tension felt by a couple when separation is inevitable.  The couple has tried therapy, learned better communication skills, but the spark has left, and so have any reasons for keeping the relationship together.  This stage also reveals the inner workings of each person in the couple, if they tune into that silent space inside them.  The souls yearn for a different life, and not just the grass looking greener in the neighbor's yard.

For this stage, I recommend Carol King's Too Late

Once the couple faces the truth and goes through the excruciating separation, they begin the dark night of the soul. One person stays behind in the house that was once shared while the other moves into a new space that feels empty.  Memories of better times haunt both people, usually, and they fight the urge to return to an unworkable situation. The ego cannot just let go and ride the adventure into the unknown not yet.  However, because of the empty feeling, either person might have a sexual fling, start drinking, or look for some other mode of escape to curb the emptiness and disappointment or guilt.

Since this is still a realization stage, I'm recommending the Wailin' Jennys' Something to Hold Onto, 

More evolved souls might move through this stage quicker than others, especially people who practice self-love.  For these folks I recommend The Wailin' Jennys again, Heaven When We're Home, (this has some humor too),

Others will delve deeper into the darkest of the night.  I recommend Dead Can Dance, Host of the Seraphim (you could also substitute a requiem),  and if you don't feel this heavy of grief, then substitute Stevie Wonder's All in Love is Fair,

Now out of the denial stage, anger and outrage takes over.  Music therapists and other therapists would ask their clients to find healthy outlets to vent the anger (while replacing the removed energy with more peaceful energies).  A person could feel anger in the form of sadness too.  I recommend listening to fados, American blues, or flamenco songs.  I also recommend dancing to West African drums or some other type of music that helps the person ground themselves in reality.

Here is flamenco diva Estrella Morente singing at her father's funeral, (you can find plenty of flamenco songs on YouTube). or

Soon a light starts glimmering at the end of a tunnel.  Sparks of life emit and an inner sun warms up from the winter ice and frost.  New interests come into the person's life, maybe a new job or a new home.  New friendships are possible now as are new creative pursuits.  Rebirth is imminent.  For this moment, I recommend Cat Stevens Morning has Broken, or Edith Piaf's La Vie en Rose,

And finally after full emergence into the world, I recommend George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue,

Well, you get the picture, substitute any of the above songs to suit your needs.  And don't forget to keep a music journal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In review--A whole lot of sugar in the bowl

Roberta Donnay
& The Prohibition Mob Band
A Little Sugar

American jazz chanteuse Roberta Donnay takes a journey through jazz history on her juicy CD, A Little Sugar.  The songs range from 1897 to present day while showing off blues, Dixieland, and swing roots.  Donnay immerses herself in the feminist sentiments of Roaring twenties and Depression Era women jazz singers, and Donnay’s softer vocals take on a gritty edge even with songs by Irving Berlin and Hoagy Carmichael. Woman empowerment, though tongue and cheek on songs such as One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show come into play.  Playful is the right word to describe this recording and if you want sexy innuendos listen to (Tropical) Heatwave or (I Want a Little) Sugar in My Bowl.  If you look for clever lyrics, you’ll find plenty here and you’ll chuckle at the witty one-liners too.  After listening to this CD, I feel like watching Hollywood classics, even Silent Era movies.

Backed by John R. Burr (piano), Sam Bevan (bass), Michael Barsimanto (drums), Rich Armstrong (horns), Sheldon Brown (reeds and flute), Wayne Wallace (trombone) and Ed Ivey (tuba on Mama’s Gone, Goodbye and You’ve Been a Good Ole Wagon), this band has a delightful time recreating the past.  From jazz ballads such as Irving Berlin’s 1932 Say it isn’t So to send-ups such as Ida Cox’s 1939 You Got to Swing and Sway, Donnay spotlights her vocal and emotional range.  The press notes mention Donnay’s research into the history of American jazz and a few of her discoveries about the rough and tumble jazz divas of former eras.  You don’t need to know any of this history, and you’ll still feel and get the sentiments on A Little Sugar.  And since these songs go down relatively easy, you won’t need any sugar.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In review--Remembering the South

Silvana Kane
La Jardinera
Six Degrees Records

Silvana Kane (Canadian band Pacifika) offers an enchanting solo debut La Jardinera, featuring nueva cancion (new songs) from South America.  The minimalist approach of Kane’s yearning vocals set against a framework of acoustic guitar, banjo, bass and trumpet gives off an intimate feeling as if we sit in Silvana’s living room while she shares her favorite songs.  Kane reaches back to her childhood living in Peru, Canada and the United States when she discovered celebrated Latin American singer-songwriters such as Mercedes Sosa, Violeta Parra, and Chabuca Granda.  Kane transforms the folkloric songs into contemporary lullabies, which Kane sings in sweet, whispery Spanish.  Since I’m a fan of South American folk songs and warm acoustic music, I enjoy immersing myself in Kane’s recording.  When I first listened to the CD, I also visited YouTube to watch Kane’s sensual and touching videos.

The CD opens with Chabuca Granda’s Cardo o Ceniza which features thumb piano, guitar and trumpet that create an atmospheric effect.  Other stand outs are Kane’s Cruces with starts out with Mexican flavored trumpet and plucky banjo that recalls another Canadian-based Latina vocalist, Lhasa, Duerme Negrito with its cute phrasing, the melodic title track composed by Violeta Parra and Fito Paez’s Yo Vengo a Ofrecer Mi Corazón, which I first heard sung by another Peruvian singer Tania Libertad.  With songs from Argentina, Chile, and Peru, plus two songs penned by Kane, this debut brings smiles laced in melancholy and bittersweet nostalgia.  Kane resurrects the ghosts of Sosa and Parra (for a few brief moments), while paving the way for younger South American singer-songwriters.  The CD ends with the Kane showing off this new talent as she sings Vida Llena accompanied by her favorite instrument, an African thumb piano.

The Practice--Shifting moods with music

photo by Patricia Herlevi, Happy Flowers
Consider how music affects our moods.  When we listen to songs from our formative years, we wax nostalgia, but this can have therapeutic effects too.  We hear of people listening to romantic music to get them in the "mood" and marches and political anthems often accompany rallies.  But how conscious are we of shifting or creating moods with music?

I've already mentioned rhythmic entrainment and resonance on this blog so we're not heading in that direction today.  Hopefully, you have kept a music journal where you have tracked emotional and physical responses to music and sound exposure.  I would even go as far as asking you to listen to music you heard as a child, even if this music was the favorite of a sibling or parent.  Then track your emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Where does your mind wander to, which memory surfaces? How does this memory cause you to feel? Do you feel angry, sad, or elated?

And actually, if you feel angry or sad, this is good, because the music brings up emotions, feelings, and thoughts that need releasing now.  If you feel angry, ventilate (as Sandra Anne Taylor refers to it), cry or scream into your pillow or write your feelings in your journal.  Do this for 10 to 20 minutes, then rip up and destroy all that you have written.  Just let it go.  If you feel sad when you hear this music then cry and write about your grief in your journal, then let it go.  Remember to replace those emotions with love, peace, calmness, confidence or other beneficial emotions, thoughts and feelings.

If you're not to that point yet, that's okay.  Let's do an experiment so you can witness first hand music's ability to affect your moods.  I'm including 3 songs via YouTube videos below.  Listen to each of the songs and watch how your mood changes with each song.  If you are a grounded person, you will notice subtle changes, but if you are mercurial or flowing, then those mood changes will feel more dramatic.  Feel free to contact me and let me know the results of your experiment.

1. Think, Aretha Franklin,

2. Play with Me, Mary Youngblood,

3. Beethoven, Fur Elise,

Remember to record your information in your music journal.