Published Feb 01, 20001. Antibalas Liberation Afro Beat Vol. 1 (Ninja Tune)
Denise Benson: These 14 globally-minded, socially conscious souls from Brooklyn, New York emerged with massive horns, joyous percussion and politicised voices all ablaze. They've been recording and releasing on their own Afrobeat imprint for a number of years, but it's this Ninja Tune-released collection of previously recorded works and new, live tunes (not to mention constant touring) that has put Antibalas on the map. The band creates music that is raw, raucous and seriously funky, a constant homage to the master, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Though the sounds of Antibalas are occasionally reverent to the point of being close-to-cover-material, they've turned a new generation of music lovers on to this crucial genre. Meanwhile, their tighter-than-tight "Dirt and Blood," "Battle of the Species," and "El Machete" will more than stand the test of time.
2. Twilight Circus Dub Sound System Volcanic Dub (M)
David Dacks: I hope nobody is still sleeping on Ryan Moore. He is putting out the very best contemporary dub. It's not just about the wall of analogia he deploys on each album as with his last album, Dub Voyage, his choice of rhythms and melodies evokes the best of reggae's heritage, without sounding like a rip-off. The dub effects are less shocking now, but that doesn't diminish his finely gritty tape echo from sandblasting your head. The highlight of this album is its closer: "Fams" is a massive track in the tradition of late '70s edition Wailers, as they should have sounded. People will look back on the Twilight years and call it a golden age.
3. U Roy Now (Tabou 1)
David Dacks: An all-star session of some of the greatest talent in Jamaican musical history. Horace Andy, Sly & Robbie, Dizzy Moore of the Skatalites and many more pay their respects to the original deejay U Roy. Now is packed with evergreen tunes from the '60s to the '80s and Daddy U Roy bobs and weaves his way through them with enthusiasm. This is an affectionate tribute in the best possible way. It's the very definition of roots: love songs and Rastafari are given equal weight and U Roy's nimble improvisations complement the perfect pop moments of tunes like Gregory Isaacs' "Warning" and Alton Ellis's "I'm Still in Love With You." One that will appeal to many generations of fans."
4. Kiran Ahluwalia Kashish Attraction (Kiran Music)
Prasad Bidaye: When the sweetness of a musical form like the ghazal lies in the poetic textures of its (Urdu, Punjabi and Persian) lyrics, the chances of expanding its listenership beyond regional ears are usually pretty slim. Toronto-based vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia defies such expectations on Kashish Attraction and amazingly so, succumbing to neither a medieval-era sense of traditionalism nor a tacky translation à la Asian breakbeats and Bollywood glam. She keeps it simple with a delicate arrangement of tabla, harmonium, guitar, sarangi and minimalist drones. The allure of it all lies predominantly in Ahluwalia's exquisite soprano and her choice repertoire of songs written in the timeless language of desire, seduction and intoxication. While Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan did a great deal to introduce an offshoot of this style through the more mystical form of the qawaali, it's exciting to find a new and youthful expression of it from a female perspective. The fact that Ahluwalia carries a Canadian passport is a bonus.
5. Moreno Veloso + 2 Music Typewriter (Palm)
Chris Wodskou: Of all the sons and daughters of musical icons from the '60s and '70s, Moreno Veloso may have the most to live up to. His father, Caetano, is pretty much a one-man ministry of culture in Brazil, but Moreno responded to his famous parent's legacy with more breezy confidence and originality than any other next-generation family act that comes to mind. Moreno has inherited both his father's voice and cheekily inventive spirit, if not his penchant for political agitation. The younger Veloso's bent is more openly romantic and melancholy, and that effortless, lithe voice makes him a natural for the bossa nova and tropicalia of his musical paternity, but just as naturally for an heir of the tropicalist tradition, Veloso's reach takes him well beyond his own borders and into a luminous realm of global pop.
Karsh Kale Realize (Six Degrees)
Prasad Bidaye: The sound of the Asian underground may not be as fashionable as it was three years ago, but New York tabla/percussionist Karsh Kale takes the East-West encounter into new places, like 2-Step and trance techno. Fusion aside, the loveliest moments on this record when he takes traditional Indian motifs on spiritual devotion and contemporises it with ecstatic fervor.
Long Beach Dub All-Stars Wonders Of The World (Dreamworks/Skunk)
Sam Thompson: A brilliant follow-up to the band's 1998 debut. The surviving members of Sublime carry late vocalist Brad Nowell's musical vision to a higher level.
Mossman vs. the World Bank (Dispensation)
David Dacks: Dub inna Montreal style. Lee Perry would be proud of these grooves.
Dr. Ring Ding Big Up (Jump Up!)
Skip Viitala: Nobody does it better!
Various Nigeria 70 (Strut)
Natacha Atlas Aiyeshteni (Mantra)
Prasad Bidaye: Recorded in Cairo, Aiyeshteni turns out breakbeats and mildly ambient electronics with the vitality of Middle Eastern urban life. The blending of electronic and Arabic musical forms is much stronger than anything that she's done with Transglobal Underground, and at times, like on "Habib," represent some of the most beautifully erotic vocal performances of the year.
Hi-Fidelity Dub Sessions Present Roots Combination (Guidance)
David Dacks: Tightly arranged, horn-dominated dub assembled by Victor Axelrod. Lyrics are a highlight on many songs rasta viewpoints on issues in America rather than Jamaica.
Nicole Mitchell and the Black Earth Ensemble Vision Quest (Dreamtime)
David Dacks: A superb ensemble from Chicago grooving and exploring African inspired spaces.
Mad Bomber Society Atomic A-Go-Go (Embalmer)
Skip Viitala: Out of the west came this surprising album.
Marcos Valle Escape (Farout)
Various Darker Than Blue (Blood + Fire)
Damian Jr. Gong Marley Halfway Tree (Motown)
Sam Thompson: As reggae legend Bob Marley's youngest musical son, Jr. Gong has the guts to stray away from his late father's signature sound. Halfway Tree is an uplifting, in-your-face dancehall masterpiece.
A.R. Rahman Laagan (Sony)
Prasad Bidaye: The ustad of India's Bollywood film industry turns to North Indian folk traditions and revitalizes them with grand string and rhythmic orchestrations.
The Chickenpox Approved By (Burning Heart)
Skip Viitala: Ska and pop sensibilities mix in an irresistible fashion.
Wendo Kolosy Marie Louise (Label Bleu)
David Dacks: Congolese veteran shows the young uns how it's done with classic rumba sounds.
Peru Negro Sangre De Un Don (Times Square)
David Dacks: Brain-bending Afro-Peruvian rhythms with unique instrumentation.
Jah Wobble + Bill Laswell Radioaxiom (Axiom/Palm)
Various Global Beat of the Boroughs (Smithsonian Folkways)
David Dacks: A label that's worked hard at marketing its vast collection of archives comes up with a survey of beat-oriented sounds of New York's diverse communities. A showcase of the variety and vitality of this city which has gained in importance since Sept. 11.
Chris Murray 4-Trackaganza (Asian Man)
Skip Viitala: No one else can make four tracks sound any finer.
Eliades Ochoa Tributo A Quarteto Patria (EMI)
Various Samba Soul 70 (Six Degrees)
David Dacks: Yeah, it's a reissue, but this could be the best compilation this label has ever put out and essential for even a casual fan of Brazilian grooves.
Rachid Taha Made In Medina (Universal)
Prasad Bidaye: Although the rock-rai experiments sound a little surreal, Taha's guttural tonality arouse attention.
Spinecracker Kill The President (indie)
Skip Viitala: High octane power-ska!
Freeworm Vegetation = Fuel (Hydrophonik)
David Dacks: Highly accomplished debut from Montreal beatmeister. Definitely not exotica for its own sake, the funk is coaxed out of every sample, regardless of the source.
New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble Live in Europe (Stomp)
Skip Viitala: Wish I were there.
Jesse Matas Rollin' In The Juicebox (Guaranteed Fresh Produce)
Sam Thompson: Former Winnipeg punk rocker Jesse Matas seamlessly blends aspects of folk, rock, reggae, funk, soul and hip-hop into his debut release, which features the rapping mastery of local MC Confucius tha Ruthless.
Baaba Maal Missing You (Palm Pictures)
David Dacks: Sensitive production of an outdoors recording by John Leckie. Uncluttered by the cheesiness that often marks Baaba Maal's other works.
General Rudie Cooling The Mark (Stomp)
Skip Viitala: Versatility. Musicianship. Energy.
34. The Degenerates Harvest Season (indie)
Skip Viitala: Rap, reggae, punk and ska collide with mind-blowing results.
Africando Betece (Syllart)
David Dacks: Another all-star project that continues to pay dividends for all involved, some of the most creative salsa and African pop around.
King Django Reason (Hellcat)
Skip Viitala: Love it or hate it, it is still good for what it is.
Muslimgauze Melt (BSI Records)
Peculiar I They Called Me Madness (Independent)
David Dacks: A righteous dub poet's first release, featuring tough beats and incendiary, thought provoking lyrics.
Jerkbank s/t (Independent)
Skip Viitala: Punk and ska surpassing all expectations.
Badawi Soldier of Midian (ROIR)