It's been quite a journey to get here, but we're delighted to say that Tambolero, the new album by Totó La Momposina, is released today as a beautifully packaged 28-page hard back CD book with extended sleeve notes and rare archive photos.
Tambolero is a reimagining of Totó's album La Candela Viva - a hugely important record both in Totó's career but also in the history of Colombian music - but it only exists as the result of a strange quirk of fate and an unexpected discovery…
The deeper everyone went into the project the more profound it became and Tambolero is a real celebration of Totó's career, which will soon reach a landmark 60 years; six decades dedicated to preserving, researching and developing an ancestral tradition, the identity of a people, passed down through the generations. The album is also a tribute to Totó's long-standing musical collaborator, the legendary drummer Batata, the master of the tambores, no longer with us but whose presence permeates the album
Released on Real World Records is a brand new 2CD retrospective Best of from the Asian Underground pioneers Joi, entitled Joi Sound System.
The album has been compiled and sequenced by Joi founding member Farook Shamsher.
From 1999 to 2007 Joi - brothers Farook and Haroon Shamsher - recorded three gloriously inventive albums for Real World Records. Joi Sound System contains music culled from these three albums; One and One is One, We Are Three and Without Zero as well as three bonus tracks.
"I want young Asian people to feel, really feel, how beautiful the music is. I want the music to bring up fond childhood memories. To encourage forgiveness. Music can do all this. Music is freedom and understanding. It's peace and love. It's Joi." Farook Shamsher.
Joi Sound System is available as a 2CD package and download.
The June release on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound is an exclusive premiere of the third album by the band Day One, entitled 'Intellectual Property'
Day One consists of vocalist and lyricist Phelim Byrne, and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Hardwidge, who began collaborating in the mid '90s, blending the storytelling traditions of folk and hip hop along with a slew of musical influences.
Originally the band were signed to Massive Attack's label Melankolic and released their debut LP 'Ordinary Man' in 2000 to international acclaim.
The follow-up 'Probably Art' was released in 2007 but as Matthew Hardwidge says work on what was to become 'Intellectual Property' started almost as soon as that album was released: "Phelim and I started the writing process for this, our third record, back in 2007. It begins, as in most cases, when we work separately. I will create soundscapes and arrangements of musical ideas, shaping them into demos for Phelim to work with.
Phelim will compile lots of lyrics and stories, and once every couple of months we come together to demo two or three tracks and make them into cool sounding songs."
As with each of their previous albums 'Intellectual Property' was co-produced by Mario Caldato Jr. The LA based producer has worked with a wide range of artists over the years but is perhaps best known for his work with Beastie Boys and Beck.
Listen to tracks from Matthew Hardwidge's exclusive playlist for Bowers & Wilkins here
Totó La Momposina's music has been sampled in many well known dance and hip hop tracks over the years.
Two of the biggest hits using her music came in the shape of Michel Cleis' dance-floor smash 'La Mezcla' and Timbaland's global hit 'Indian Flute'. Both of which sampled Totós track 'Curura'.
Now, it's your turn!
In advance of the release of Totó's new album 'Tambolero' we are running a remix competition that allows you download the stems to Totó's classic track 'Curura' so you can do your own remix.
The winner will win a pair of Bowers & Wilkins headphones. Competition closes 17 July.
The rest, is up to you! Good luck
It is with great sadness and a sense of shock that we have learnt of the death of Saifullah 'Sam' Zaman, at the age of just 43.
Sam, aka State of Bengal, was a regular visitor to Real World Studios over the years and also released two albums on Real World Records, 1999's Walking On, with Ananda Shankar and in 2004 Tana Tani, a collaboration with Paban Das Baul.
Sam collaborated with many South Asian musicians, most memorably the celebrated psych-rock sitar maverick Ananda Shankar, but was always looking to bring something new to the music rather than simply falling back on traditional methods and approaches; "I want to feel that I'm moving things on, not just regurgitating music that's being played for centuries," he said. While working on the Tana Tani album with Paban Das Baul he was keen to push the celebrated singer and dubki player into new areas; "I'd occasionally ask Paban to experiment in areas where he wouldn't naturally work."
As well as the album releases Sam was a key component in the burgeoning Asian Underground scene of the late 1990's and early 2000's and an accomplished DJ. He was also renowned for his innovative and exciting remixes for a host of other artists such as Bjork, Massive Attack and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
"We worked together with Sam Zaman aka State of Bengal during very happy, experimental times - exploring collaborations between artists, making new musical relationships. During the making of the album 'Walking On' (1999) at Real World Studios two generations of Indian music met - Sam the natural young partner of the visionary virtuoso Ananda Shankar. Working with State of Bengal on the album 'Star Rise' Sam produced one of the most beautiful and atmospheric, uplifting remixes of the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Sam was a joyous, funny, witty person and ground-breaking artist who brought together contemporary break beat and hip hop with Indian classical music, and an ear for the beautiful melody that draws us through his irresistible dance beats." - Amanda Jones, Label Manager, Real World Records
"Sam Zaman was a delight to work with; I loved his mischievous sense of humour, his warmth and his loyalty. I had heard his music from the get go and played it out as a DJ in the mid nineties, I always thought it was the sound of the Asian Overground. I found myself tracking down Indian fusion legend Ananda Shankar in 1997, infected by the joy of hearing his famous track "Streets Of Calcutta". I asked Sam if he would be interested in a collaborative project with the (very definitely up for it) Calcutta posse, we put one and one together and made two - State Of Bengal and Ananda Shankar - "Walking On", an album, with Real World Records, in full and supportive effect. Matt Mars, Sam's writing partner was solid as a rock from the start and we are friends still today. Then we went on tour, it was fun, and it was mad. It was my first clumsy attempt as a curator/producer - what you will - and Sam trusted me. It was extremely generous of him considering the risk. We had a great time working together. Sam and I have had intermittent connections since then, sadly, (geography mainly - and the straying effect of the business) but he was always in my heart and mind. I remember a lovely afternoon in the mid 2000's at his house in the East End of London where he demonstrated 101 different ways to mash up a rare and beautiful looking and sounding Carnatic percussion instrument through his compact home studio. Then we had tea and a cigarette. I cherish those times together with him at home, and on the road. Thank you my friend, and love to you and yours always. - Alan James, collaborator on the 'Walking On' album
Our thoughts go to all of Sam's family and friends at this difficult time. He will be sorely missed by us all.
Available this week on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound is the new album from John Metcalfe.
The release via Bowers & Wilkins is a chance for Society of Sound members to get an exclusive preview of the album before its full commercial release on Real World Records next month.
John Metcalfe is a composer, producer, classical violist, guitarist, pioneering A&R man and arranger to a host of A-list pop stars. As well as working with Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, Coldplay, Blur, Bat for Lashes and The Pretenders, John has had a varied musical career including setting up the Factory Classical label, stints in the band Durutti Column, his own string quartet The Duke Quartet and much more. His ear for timbre and his instinct for musical drama make him a good collaborator - empathetic but never unassuming.
The album that John Metcalfe has made for Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound unites the disparate strands of his musical life to date and demonstrates his confidence on a bigger stage, both literally and metaphorically. "This is me on my own, and there's nothing between the audience and me. It's my efforts, it's my emotions, it's my sensibilities on display".
There are repeated string motifs that evoke the work of Steve Reich. His clean, single-note guitar lines, which he says are directly influenced by Durutti Column's Vini Reilly, are a prominent feature of the album. There are moments of affecting solo piano. There are elements of drum and bass, and of chamber music. Metcalfe's tunes mutate effortlessly: from introspective fragmentation to a calm landscape of sonorous noises; from rhythmic strings to expansive anthems.
Via Bowers & Wilkins the album is available in two versions; the full album at 24 bit/44.1 kHz and also a special exclusive edition called The Vinyl Experience. This provides listeners with a high-resolution 96kHz recording of the actual vinyl LP.
Joi sounded like the future, back in the day. Right here, right now, they still do. The original Asian fusionists were always one step ahead of the game, what with their DJ-led mix of breakbeats and Eastern grooves, their electronic roots and real playing values, the way they would gig as both a sound system and as a fully-fledged band with vocals, keyboards and guitar as well as tabla, flute and sitar.
Then there was their message. One love. One vibe. Victory in unity. Liberty through music.
The new double album contains 22 tracks culled from the band's three gloriously inventive albums for Real World: 1999's One and One is One, 2000's We Are Three and 2007's Without Zero, plus three bonus tracks.
"It was as if the tracks chose themselves," says Farook of the album that opens with bonus track and former NME Single of the Week, 'A Desert Storm'. "When I looked back at the way the titles fell, right from 'Desert Storm' to 'We Need Your Vote', from 'Show Me Love' to 'Asian Vibes', from 'World of Colours' to 'Flying With You', I saw they were telling the story of Joi in words and in music."
The Vocal Chords radio special, that was broadcast on RTE Lyric FM last year, and featured long-time Real World Records artist and singer with The Gloaming Iarla O'Lionaird in conversation with Peter Gabriel, has been nominated for a New York Festival Radio Award in the category of Best Music Special.
View a full list of the radio programmes that have been nominated for awards via the New York Festivals website.
The winners will be announced at a Gala Night in New York on 22 June.
In the programme, produced by Athena Media, Iarla met Peter at his home studio in London to talk about Peter's own vocal journey and asked what singing meant to him. It was a diverse conversation where Peter shared his favourite music, from The Beatles' 'Love Me Do' and songs of the "Pakistani Pavarotti", Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to his key musical influences including Otis Redding and Nina Simone.
"I think everyone, musical or not, should learn to sing and find out about their voice…..I think it's an understanding of interpretation, as well as … delivering melody" says Peter as part of the programme.
Singer, dancer and teacher, Totó La Momposina's entire life has been dedicated to representing the music of Colombia's Caribbean coastline, where African, Indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures mingle to create a unique musical tradition. 'Tambolero', originally released in 1993 as La Candela Viva and regarded by many as one of Colombia's most important albums, has been re-created and re-imagined for 2015 as part of Real World Records' Gold series, and will be released on 29 June 2015.
About to turn 75 this summer, Totó's and her family's story is fascinating and compelling, and pretty much the story of modern Colombia. Totó was 8 years old when La Violencia, a ten-year period of Colombia's civil war which is estimated to have cost the lives of at least 200,000 people, kicked off in 1948. Living in Villavicencio at the time, Totó had to tread over dead bodies in the streets on the way to school in the mornings - the fighting was often at night. Her father was imprisoned there and narrowly avoided execution, they managed to escape to Bogota and he went into hiding.
It was there that Totó la Momposina's career started in the late 1940's, aged 8, alongside her three sisters and one brother, as part of her mother's dance and music group. The family had come across racism, and the group was created with the specific intention that the five siblings would be proud of their Colombian identity and Afro-Indian culture.
As Totó matured into adulthood her commitment to her culture and the traditions of its music were unfailing. She went from village to village, in all seasons, learning the traditions and songs of Colombia's Caribbean coast. She travelled to Europe to pursue her career as a singer, to some success, never faltering in her commitment to the music.
However, it was the invitation to perform at the WOMAD Festival in the UK that led to Totó's participation in the first Real World Recording Week and ultimately to the recording of the songs - with legendary American producer Phil Ramone at the controls in 1991 and English producer John Hollis for the follow-up sessions in 1992 - that would become 'La Candela Viva'.
The international success of 'La Candela Viva', and the following two albums 'Carmelina' in 1995 and 'Pacantó' in 1999 (MTM/Colombia), would ignite Totó's career in Colombia and finally see her recognized as a star in her own country.
While their repertoire could easily be categorised as "Colombian folklore", Totó adamantly defines it in different terms: "While I respect the word 'folklore', to me it means something that's dead - in a museum. Traditional music, or the music from the old days, is still alive: many people are working with it and it's always evolving. The people of the pueblo don't know about 'folklore'. They say música antigua or música de antes (from before)."
The music has continued to endure, including being routinely sampled by the world of dance and hip-hop (Michel Cleis, Da R3volution and Timbaland, to name but a few). It was during the search for the original master tapes to find the parts for a Michel Cleis dance track that producer (and now son-in-law of Totó) John Hollis discovered something rather remarkable.
Amongst the original 2" master tapes was a treasure trove of material: some 40 takes of 20 different songs. Material all involved had forgotten existed, until then. Not only was there a wealth of recorded material from the 'La Candela Viva' sessions that didn't make the original album there were also a number of previously unreleased songs too.
To restore the analogue tapes which would otherwise slowly deteriorate, the first job was to bake them (literally!) to remove any moisture that had accumulated, making them playable again. The recordings could then be digitised to work with modern technology. A process of reassessing all the different versions and new songs, re-editing and over-dubbing began.
"At this point it occurred to me that Totó's granddaughters would add a nice texture to some of the chorus lines," explains John. Totó happily agreed: "Claro, ellos son mis choristas [of course, they are my backing singers]." Soon after, Maria del Mar and Oriana Melissa entered The Wood Room at Real World Studios, the very same space in which Totó and her band performed their set live 23 years earlier; Maria was present back then, a toddler at the time, and Oriana hadn't been born. "It was a surreal moment and they delivered their parts beautifully." adds John.
The result is 'Tambolero'. More than just a re-release of 'La Candela Viva' it is a genuine re-appraisal and re-imagining of the original.
'Tambolero' is in effect a new album and one in which Totó continues to reflect the experience of her native Colombia through her life and music. The two things are intertwined: the story of Totó la Momposina is truly the story of modern Colombia. It has also become a celebration of Totó's professional career, which will soon reach a landmark 60 years - six decades dedicated to preserving, researching and developing an ancestral tradition, the identity of a people, passed down through the generations.
"For me, connection with my ancestors is all important. It would be a grave situation if Colombians didn't know their musical roots because these are what bind us together. We have a wonderful country but a nation without music would be a people without identity. Our musical identity is a natural creation, evolved by the people of the countryside, inspired by the elements around them. This music is for everyone, for the world." Totó la Momposina, April 2015
Totó la Momposina y Sus Tambores have been invited back to the WOMAD Festival where her international career started, to play for the first time at Charlton Park, on the Main Stage on Friday, 24 July 2015, at 3pm.
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It was a special night for Real World Records artists The Gloaming and 9Bach at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards last night, with both bands coming away with an award - Best Traditional Song (The Gloaming) and Best Album (9Bach).
The evening was particularly memorable for 9Bach. Not only did they pick up the coveted award of Best Album for their second album Tincian - the first Welsh act to win a Folk Award of any description - they also closed the show with a powerful performance of the song 'Ffarwel' where the band were joined on-stage by the massed voices of the Penrhyn Male Voice Choir Choir (a 50-strong male choir).
The whole awards were broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and you can listen again to the show here.
Many congratulations to both The Gloaming and 9Bach from everyone at Real World Records, we're really proud of you both!