Both albums can be purchased as a physical or digital download and are also available with a WMN subscription.
This Rough Guide treads ashore to the hilly outposts of Mediterranean life where music is still the lifeblood of the old, opulent cultures that hail from the region. Spaniard Benjamin Escoriza features alongside Turk Mercan Dede, Croatian Darko Rundek, Corsican ensemble A Filletta and Albanian brass band Fanfara Tirana.
Open any travel brochure and you are sure to see the Mediterranean - with its clichéd sparkling beaches, sumptuous food and complementary climate - featured on its glossy pages. Greece has always been a land of artistic endeavour – its Ancient Empire accepted as the cradle of Western civilisation. Just like the pluming pillars that house the Parthenon, Greek traditional music has stood proud throughout the centuries and is still being mined by contemporary folk artists. Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis open the album and remix traditional demotika songs to striking effect while solo guitarist Dimitris Mistikadis looks at the rebetika tradition for inspiration.
The other great classical empire, Rome, was of course centred around an Italian base. Daniele Sepe is a Neapolitan musician known for fusing traditional themes with just about anything else you can imagine filling the city's simmering soundscape; medieval chants, tarantella and free jazz are all on his radar.
Skipping up the coast to Croatia, we hear a track from the Darko Rundek & Cargo Orkestar album Ruke. Although this isn’t an exclusively Croatian-inspired project: on the album Balkan riffs nestle alongside Latin rhythms. Speaking of bawdy Balkan brass, Fanfara Tirana are a raucous Albanian ensemble whose recordings bristle with energy.
Swooping down again and eastwards to Turkey, Mercan Dede presents a whirling rhythmic song topped with Zerina Cokoja’s stretching, languorous vocals. Other contributions are heard from Palestinian Ramzi Aburedwan, Moroccan Emil Zrihan, Egyptian Salamat, Lebanese Ishan Al-Mounzer and Israeli-fusion band Ruth Yaakov Ensemble.
Even still the process of exchange is ongoing. In the twentieth century alone, as the European Union has strengthened, expanded (and variously weakened) new sounds have been shared. Listen to Akim El Sikameya mixing Algerian and French flavours, Watcha Clan’s Sephardic folk remix or Benjamin Escoriza’s Franco-Spanish accordion playing for examples in action. This Rough Guide blazes a trail across the Mediterranean, audibly connecting the roots music of the region along its way.
Delve into duende – the emotional fire and stamp of modern flamenco on this Rough Guide. Pay homage to the living flamenco tradition with the guitars of Son De La Frontera and the legendary voice of Carmen Linares, before discovering contemporary twists from the likes of Lenacay, and Ladino innovator Yasmin Levy.
From Israel to the Camargue, and from Barcelona to North Africa, flamenco forms and fusions are enchanting the faithful and converting new audiences.
Lenacay – born out of the disbanding of hip-hop flamenco innovators Ojos de Brujo in 2011 – seems to spin almost out of control with their fusions of bulerías, tangos, rumbas and soleas with Balkan, Latin and Indian music as well as club rhythms like dubstep and drum & bass, but are centered by flamenco. La Xula, who play sultry, avant-garde flamenco seduce by stealth.
Jerusalem-born Yasmin Levy brings her distinctive Ladino Jewish tradition to flamenco. While hers seems like a new branch, you might equally say she is rediscovering a forgotten strand of the roots of flamenco. Martirio, from Huelva, takes the sound forward through jazz treatments, and is equally at ease with tango, son and guaracha. ‘Fandangos’ plays off a moody midnight swing piano against her soaring flamenco vocal line.
Spanish label Nuevos Medios, sometimes referred to as the ‘Tamla Motown of flamenco’ is the home of Moorish-Cuban guitar quintet Son de la Frontera, flute and saxophone virtuoso (and Chick Corea collaborator) Jorge Pardo and Tomasa Guerrero Carrasco aka La Macanita, a singer who has stayed faithful to the gypsy cante style typical of her home town, Jerez de la Frontera.
These artists and the likes of Carlos Piñana, Londro, Carmelita Montoya and Carmen Linares are only ‘conservative’ in the sense that they embrace and nurture the ineffable, intangible quality of Andalusian flamenco: all are respected live performers, and bring that experience to their passionate, genre-expanding recordings.
Flamenco has a reputation for angst but with Mayte Martín’s ‘Por La Mar Chica Del Puerto’ we discover its intimate side. Completely different, but also heart-felt, the Camargue-based Gitano Family turn even the gloomiest images into bittersweet country songs.
This Rough Guide to Flamenco also comes with a bonus disc, featuring the music of Buenos Aires-based Al Toque Flamenco.