International Sad Hits Volume One: Altaic Language Group

This fascinating collection of folk music defies an easy "world music” tag, and demonstrates how passion for music can transcend language barriers. The admirable concept behind this first volume of the International Sad Hits series brings the work of four former and current stars of Asian folk music to the attention of western listeners who may be oblivious to their talents. Curated by Damon & Naomi, theses songs are by the late Fikret Kizilok of Turkey, Korea’s Kim Doo Soo, and Tomokawa Kazuki and Mikami Kan, who both hail from Japan. Likening these figures to Bob Dylan for their poetic impact on their respective cultural landscapes, Damon & Naomi write of being swept up by these songs before having any sense of their subject matter. "If you feel it from the singing, it’s probably in the words too,” they write in the liner notes and, even without the provided lyric translations, what they say rings true. Kim Doo Soo is likely the most sombre voice here, though he renders songs like "Mountain” and "Sweet Briar” with great feeling. Kizilok’s "I’m Anatolia” is an atmospheric song with eclectic instrumentation and "Just As Long” also suggests he possessed an ear for unique textures. Kan is an adventurous guitarist and his subdued, guttural vocal delivery gives "Never Before” and "Why Stop if You Like It?” their own unique character. Easily the most impassioned performer here, Kazuki’s solo performances are dynamic and electrically-charged, with his voice and guitar-playing building mightily in pieces such as the harrowingly dark "Storms in the Dead of Night” and the fiery "Kasai Zenzo.” Though it’s an abbreviated glimpse at some astounding performers, this collection is an excellent primer for curious fans of music in the Altaic language. (20|20|20,)