Anansy Cissé – Mali Overdrive

Anansy Cissé - Mali Overdrive

My recent review of Anansy Cissé’s Mali Overdrive on Riverboat Records for RootsWorld Magazine:

Anansy Cissé’s debut release, Mali Overdrive, offers a fresh take on West African blues, where the young guitarist, vocalist and composer mixes both electric and acoustic in an interesting way.

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Splinters & Candy 11/17/14 WVKR

Drums Drums

Drums Drums

Splinters & Candy 11/17/14 WVKR by Splinters & Candy on Mixcloud

Splinters & Candy airs every Monday from 4-5PM ET on independent radio 91.3FM WVKR Poughkeepsie. Live streaming at Each week Alex Brown presents an eclectic collection of music from around the world.

Global explorations in sound. Listen to music from India, Canada, USA, Mali, Nigeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. Enjoy tunes from another place.


Kiran Ahluwalia – “Hayat”
Alex Skolnick’s Planetary Coalition – “Passage to Pranayama”
Awa Sangho – “Nangaraba”
Koola Lobitos – “Highlife Time”
Etran Finatawa – “Lledeman”
Thione Seck – “Dome”
Malouma – “Chtib”
Moussa Doumbia – “Keleya”
Touré-Touré – “Seydu”
Tartit – “Democratie”

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Splinters & Candy 11/10/14 WVKR

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Splinters & Candy 11/10/14 WVKR by Splinters & Candy on Mixcloud

Splinters & Candy airs every Monday from 4-5PM ET on independent radio 91.3FM WVKR Poughkeepsie. Live streaming at Each week Alex Brown presents an eclectic collection of music from around the world.

Hear music from Cuba, Colombia, Algeria, Iran, Thailand, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Global explorations in sonic diversity.


Abelardo Barroso with Orquesta Sensacion – “En Guantánamo”
Fruko y sus Tesos – “Charanga Campesina”
Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores – “La Sombra Negra”
Khaled – “Biya Dek El Mar”
Houari Benchenet – “Mal Galbi”
Shohreh – “To Bemoon”
Shahram – “Salam”
Khun Narin Electric Phin Band – “Lai Sing”
Jacqueline Fortes – “Dia de Suspansse”
Mahmoud Ahmed – “Mar Tèb Yelal Kafesh”
Fred Fisher Atalobhor and his Ogiza Dance Band – “The Beginning – Ishan”
The Zawose Family – “Notendachi”

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Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar – Live à l’Étoile

Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar - Live à l'Étoile

It’s a shame Dexter Johnson remains relatively unknown outside of Africa. The distinguished saxophonist, born in Nigeria and established in Senegal, became a leading figure in West African music through the 1950s until 1981, when he passed away at the age of 49. After leaving Nigeria, Johnson spent time in Bamako, which served as a great meeting place for musicians in Mali. While there, he rubbed elbows with the likes of Barro Ndiaye, Joseph Mambaye and a number of musicians from Senegal.

Johnson arrived in Dakar in 1957. He became close with many club owners who wanted him to perform at their venues. The proprietor of the Shanghai bar brought him down from Bamako and had Johnson playing a gig the night he rolled into town. He moved from club to club, building his stature every step of the way.

While playing at the Moulin Rouge, Ibra Kasse (owner of the Miami bar) approached Johnson with an offer to play at his place. He accepted and joined the Star Band de Dakar, which partnered him with Mady Konate and Amara Toure. The band established themselves at the Miami bar and eventually traveled to Banjul, where they recruited Laba Sosseh.

After a few years Johnson left the Star Band de Dakar and formed a rival group, the Super Star de Dakar. Both groups were loaded with extraordinary talent and inspired natural competition between the two camps. Super Star de Dakar began playing at l’Étoile every night and drew large crowds. Laba left the group to travel to Abidjan and Johnson later followed, but not before becoming the proper front-man of Super Star de Dakar.

While Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar never committed any notes to a full-length studio LP, a venue owner in Thiès traveled to Dakar and recorded the group so he could capture the integrity of the band for all of his club patrons to hear. Thankfully for listeners, Senegal’s Teranga Beat acquired the tapes and have released them as a 2LP/CD set entitled Live à l’Étoile.

This special live recording captures Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar in all of their glory. The sound is quite remarkable considering this was recorded before the band departed for Abidjan in 1969. While Laba Sosseh had left the group by this time, Johnson is joined by John Gomis, along with William & Maïssa Ngom, who handle the vocals well. Johnson’s tenor saxophone also functions as a lead vocalist at times, improvising phrases over repeated backing vocals with a warm and tender tone, slightly husky and full of vibrato.

The saxophone is pushed to the front of the mix along with the vocalists, which allows the electric guitar to sit in the background slightly. The effect is ethereal as the open air acoustics intensify the instrument in the best way possible. The drum kit and percussion also settle into the groove, giving everything plenty of space while remaining tight and compact.

The album opens with the slow, steady “Angelitos Negros,” a tender ballad that introduces Johnson’s delicate approach. His persuasive style bleeds passion, caressing every note he blows. In contrast, “Soy Hijo del Siboney” reveals a heartier, more attacking style with a playful side. “Borinquen Tropical” digs in deep and is arguably the strongest cut on Live à l’Étoile. This fantastic number refuses to quit and combines group harmony vocals with some excellent lead, courtesy of Johnson. The steady, repeated chorus provides the perfect platform for the saxophone to take control.

Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar’s Afro-Cuban sound is authentic and creative. The group can tear your heart out and get you dancing in a flash. Always adaptable, the band even includes an impressive cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Something You Got” in their repertoire, showcasing their caliber as a soul outfit.

Live à l’Étoile is a standout live recording made even more impressive by the fact that this band never recorded a full-length album together in the studio. This treasure is a must-have and should be experienced on vinyl as the LP adds “Cienfuegos Tiene Su Cuaguanco” as a bonus track.

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Calaita Flamenco Son – Self-titled

Calaita Flamenco Son

Originally published in RootsWorld Magazine:

Calaita Flamenco Son greet the international market with a vibrant debut release that explores a range of flamenco music. The Manchester-based group started out as a trio before expanding into a quintet, adding a vocalist and a woodwind player along the way. The wisdom behind this decision is easy to hear on their self-titled CD. Guitarists Chico Pere and Glenn Sharp lead the way, composing most of the tracks on the album, while Leo Paredes holds the rhythm together on cajón. Recent additions Diana Castro and Matt Nickson support the band with vocals and flute/saxophone respectively. Castro’s clear voice melds well with lead vocalist Pere’s expressive, weathered singing and Nickson’s woodwinds add a nice layer to the ensemble’s guitar-driven sound. Gavin Barras adds fretless electric bass guitar to a couple of tracks, revealing a jazz undercurrent sitting below the surface throughout much of Calaita Flamenco Son.

Chico Pere and company deliver authentic, passionate flamenco music with some outside influences, but this is by no means a crossover record. The jazz element, among others, is subtle and used effectively to broaden the group’s palette. Palos, seguiriyas, rumbas and bulerías sit alongside alegrías, tangos, guajiras, and colombianas. The enthusiastic atmosphere of the recording, full of vocal encouragement, hand clapping and hearty guitar strumming, lends this disc a natural warmth that sometimes gets lost in a studio setting.

Right from the start, “Muy Ocupada” sets the tone for the album. Pere hails from a family of flamenco singers and his mature, yet controlled voice is the perfect vehicle for the group. The piece ebbs and flows, rapidly shifting dynamics. The dual guitars are prominently featured, but never become overbearing. The backing vocals, cajón, saxophone and fretless bass all come and go, adding lots of texture throughout. “Un Mensajito” is a jazz-inflected tango driven by Pere and Castro’s terrific vocal harmony and Nickson’s tenor saxophone.

While this is an ensemble record, it’s nice to hear Pere sing with solo guitar on “Quedate Con Tus Anillos,” a moving seguiriya that finds the vocalist hitting top form. “En El Puente” is another stripped down, heartfelt piece with a haunting sound and tapped guitar percussion. “Rumba Del Siete” starts slow and soulful before building with intensity, giving Diana Castro a chance to sing some lead.

Calaita Flamenco Son is a rewarding record that signals a great start for the band. Enjoyable for traditional and contemporary flamenco fans alike.

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Splinters & Candy airs Mondays from 4-5PM ET on 91.3FM WVKR. Live streaming at Each week Alex Brown presents an eclectic collection of music from around the globe.