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The music of Ireland is a tradition that is alive and kicking. Right the way across the country music fills every corner of life – warm pubs bubble with musicians taking part in impromptu seisúns and rousing late-night sing-songs are commonplace. This album features musicians old and new, from Waterford to Donegal and Kerry to Belfast.
Traditional music and song still play a major role in Irish cultural life. It is at pub sessions and the many festivals, both major (the Willie Clancy Summer and the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann) and minor, where visitors to Ireland are most likely to encounter traditional musicians in full flow.
This compilation features musicians from Waterford to Donegal and Kerry to Belfast, taking in New York, too, on its journey. It features major figures from the Irish tradition and introduces some who may be less well-known. Though it is impossible to be comprehensive, it provides a tantalizing selection of the delights provided by one of the world’s most durable musical traditions.
The instruments employed by said musicians have changed little over the last hundred or so years – fiddle, flute, concertina, button accordion, banjo, tin whistle and uilleann pipes (Ireland’s own form of bagpipes), often backed by guitar, bouzouki and bodhrán (a goat-skin frame drum).
The Unwanted, a Sligo-based trio, kick start the album with a set of reels. Next Solas joined by the soloist Máiréad Phelan perform an Irish twist on ‘A Sailor’s Life’ – a traditional English song. Waterford singer Karan Casey and Dublin singer-guitarist John Doyle perform ‘Bay Of Biscay’ taken from the repertoire of late County Clare singer Nora Cleary. A real treat comes in the form of ‘The Heart Of The World’ by West Cork singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. Owing to his work with the Afro Celt Sound System Iarla is probably Ireland’s most well-known singer in his native language and his style is rooted in the sean-nós tradition. Other names to look out for bursting from this release include Sharon Shannon, Fidil, Brian Finnegan and T With The Maggies.
The bonus CD On Six Days In Down features slide-guitarist Bob Brozman, the masterful uilleann piper John McSherry and fiddle virtuoso Dónal O’Connor. The trio deliver an album of startling beauty with splashes of gentle humour.
Colombian cumbia is the beloved tropical dance music that is currently enjoying a revival on club dance floors. This Rough Guide highlights the best from cumbia’s coastal Afro-Caribbean roots through to its entirely modern incarnations. Explore the vintage works of Lucho Bermúdez, Los Corraleros de Majagual through to the urban styling’s of El Hijo De La Cumbia and Los Chapillacs.
Cumbia, originally from the coastal regions of Colombia, is an internationally beloved genre of tropical music (and dance) with a syncopated 4/4 rhythm characterized by call-and-response vocals, a rolling drumbeat and a simple, repetitive timekeeping percussion laid out on the maracas (gourd shakers) or the raspy guacharaca scraper.
This Rough Guide transverses a wide range of cumbia styles and sounds. The album opens with ‘La Guacharaca’ by Medardo Padilla Y Su Conjunto an example of the cumbia as played by traditional folkloric groups from the coast of Colombia. Essential to any guide to cumbia is clarinettist Lucho Bermúdez (1912–1994), one of the founding fathers of the modern coastal sound of tropical music. ‘Gaita De Los Flores’ pays tribute to the indigenous and humble gaita, but updates the instrument with the European clarinet, changing the feel from Indian flute to mambo/swing big band in the mould of Pérez Prado or Glenn Miller. Other gems included ‘Luz De Cumbia’, Aníbal Velásquez’s infectious tropical jam that describes the romantic night-time dancing in a traditional candle-lit cumbiamba (‘cumbia party’). Another killer track ‘Noche De Cumbia’ was a big hit in 1977 for Barranquilla-born singer and composer Adolfo Ernesto Echeverría Comas. The lively track demonstrates his unique sound which combines the folkloric music of his Atlantic coastal region with muscular New York-style salsa arrangements.
Cumbia has enjoyed a revival in recent years and is filling up dance floors again. Heading up the modern contingent is the closing track from El Hijo De Cumbia. The Argentinian DJ has become famous for his own brand of modern cumbia (sometimes referred to as cumbia villera) that combines elements of hip-hop, reggae and digital dancehall.
The bonus CD features Los Corraleros De Majagual. Explore the roots and reverberations of cumbia on this comprehensive Rough Guide.