Feb 232018
 

mal maiz

Maiz Vargas Sandoval began life in Costa Rica. He lived there through college, studying sociology and anthropology at the Universidad Nacional, before immigrating to the states in his twenties. After traveling around for a year, he landed in Burlington, Vermont in 2014 – geographically, culturally, and, not least, meteorologically, a long way from home.

He landed in Burlington through a friendship with local soul musician Kat Wright and her husband Lee Anderson. He quickly integrated himself into the Burlington music scene, playing and sometimes bartending at the local clubs Anderson runs. And he founded Mal Maiz, a band that plays Latin and Afro-Caribbean music in all its many forms, from well-known-to-Americans genres like reggae to lesser-known traditions like cumbia. Continue reading »

Jan 242017
 

In addition to playing percussion in Phish bassist’s Mike Gordon’s band and until recently in Rubblebucket, Craig Myers leads a world-music ensemble dubbed Barika, a name taken from an Arabic word that in West Africa is used for giving praise and thanks. A master of the West African string instrument the n’goni, which he studied in Mali, Myers blends danceable African rhythms with a powerful horn section. Bold and catchy, this is “world music” that avoids the lite-reggae cliches the genre is often saddled with.

The band just announced their third album When The Time Comes, and, judging by the two songs they’ve released thus far, it could be their best yet. The songs show world music as it should be, focusing on a particular region while not being so tied to tradition that they can’t bring in music from other places. “Banni” is a chanted invocation with American soul horns that sounds like the Dap-Kings in the Middle East, while “Gotta Be Another Way” brings a little bit of Italy into Africa by channeling Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns. Continue reading »

Jan 042017
 
brendan taaffe

Pete Seeger once told Brattleboro, Vermont musician Brendan Taaffe: “Your mbira playing is beautiful!” Which probably inspires in you the same question it did me: What’s a mbira?

A mbira, as it happens, is a small thumb piano popular in Zimbabwe and the Congo. And Seeger was right: Taaffe’s mbira playing is beautiful. His 2013 record Can’t Hold the Wheel with band The New Line was one of the best Vermont records in the past decade, blending African music into the broader stew of Americana (Taaffe also plays the more oft-heard instruments of guitar, fiddle, and banjo). And now he’s released a follow-up, a six-song EP called Fly Down You Little Bird. Five of the tracks are covers. We asked Taaffe about them and his responses were so interesting and in-depth we’re just going to quote them at length: Continue reading »